Mapping the Diversity of the Creative Class.


Racial and ethnic diversity spurs economic progress; sameness spells economic segregation.

The interplay between race, ethnicity, and economic progress in the U.S. has long been a complex and politically loaded one, even before the election of Donald Trump. As president, Trump’s embrace of white supremacists and controversial immigration policies have only brought America’s divisions further to the fore. But ethnic and racial diversity is a key factor in America’s economic growth. My own work has looked at the role of factors like openness to immigrants and gays and lesbians in the innovative quality and economic development of cities and metro areas.

I have previously covered the black and white racial divide in the creative class. Today, I want to turn more broadly to the racial and ethnic diversity of the creative class—the nearly 50 million American workers, who make up roughly a third of the United States workforce, spanning science and tech; business and management workers; and arts, design, and cultural creativity. Economist Todd Gabe of the University of Maine ran the numbers for all 350-plus U.S. metros based on data from the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.

The Hispanic creative class

The first map shows the Hispanic share of the creative class across metros. This includes all Hispanic residents, regardless of skin color. On the map, dark purple indicates a high level of diversity, and lighter blue indicates low levels of it. Hispanics make up the greatest share of the creative class along the southern border areas of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, as one might expect, but also in parts of the Rockies, Florida, around Chicago in the Midwest, and along the Boston-New York-Washington Corridor.

There are two metros where Hispanic residents make up more than a third of the creative class: San Antonio and Miami. There are two more—Riverside and Los Angeles—where Hispanics make up a fifth to a quarter of the creative class. All of these are in the South and West. Older industrial metros tell the other side of this story: Hispanics make up just 1 and 2.5 percent of the creative class in these places, with Pittsburgh topping the least-diverse list.

The Asian creative class

A map of the Asian share of the creative class across metros looks much the same: Again, there are large concentrations on the East and West Coasts, plus Texas. But now there are pockets in the South, Midwest, and Mountain states as well.

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