The Truthiness about the Cupcake Class
Once upon a time, a man named Richard Florida lived in Pittsburgh and taught at Carnegie Mellon University and published a book called The Rise of the Creative Class. Professor Florida argued that the future of cities like Pittsburgh lies in their ability to attract and retain members of the Creative Class -- relatively young professionals engaged in "creative" industries, who have money and taste and dynamic interests.
What happened? Cupcakes came to Pittsburgh, and not just any cupcakes, but the kind of upscale, high-priced, elite cupcakes that appeal to BoBo Creatives. And with a prompt from Chris Briem, I christened consumers of these things "the Cupcake Class."
That's all well and good, and it's supposed to be a Floridian satire, because it should be obvious to thinking people that cupcakes and the local economy really have nothing to do with one another.
Unfortunately, the Tribune Review didn't get the joke. From [the Dec. 20] paper: "Getting a cupcake shop can say a lot about your city, according to law professor Mike Madison and economist Chris Briem, who write about the local economy at 'Pittsblog.' They've speculated, semi-seriously, about 'the rise of The Cupcake Class.' [quoting from this blog] 'Cities that want to compete economically in the 21st century need to attract and retain The Cupcake Class: People with the time, money, and taste to consume small portions of upscale baked goods.'"
For the record: Actually, no. Getting a cupcake shop says little about your city, just as [here's the explanation] attracting and retaining "the Creative Class" says much, much less about urban futures than Richard Florida believes. Eventually, the cupcake fad will pass, and then losing a cupcake shop will say little about your city. Except that there were cupcake lovers once who were willing to pay $3 per cupcake, and now there are not.
UPDATED: Richard Florida emailed me yesterday ... [and] pointed me to this post in his own blog ... "First off, it's important to say that there is now wide consensus among economists and other students of economic development about the primary factors that drive economic development. ...With a penchant for common sense that seems to distinguish the greatest thinkers [Robert Lucas] sums it up with the question: 'What can people be paying Manhattan or downtown Chicago rents for, if not to be around other people?'"
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