Tuesday, 6 May 2008

change of place, change of mind

Richard Florida in the Boston Globe:
Human personalities can be classified along five key dimensions: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience.... These personality types are not spread evenly across the country. They cluster.
Florida avoids making causal claims, merely noting the correlation, but just given facts about personality types, he makes one prediction about who will move where:

Conscientious and agreeable types in particular are less likely to move. Once they find a place, they tend to spread out gradually over time. Extroverts, on the other hand, are much more likely to move over greater distances. Open-to-experience types are drawn to thrills and risk, and moving, after all, is one of life's biggest new experiences.

This fuels a process of selective migration whereby agreeable and conscientious regions are drained of the most driven, most creative, and most mobile - only reinforcing their psychogeographic profiles, while magnifying the innovative edge in places where open-to-experience types concentrate.

Florida's previous work on the creative class (see my reaction) suggests that municipalities should work to attract these mobile innovators, but this new work says otherwise. The mobile creative class may be the catalyst for change, but they are not a stable long-term commodity - they may well start up a company and then move on to another location. What's needed to sustain their industry is a reliable supply of conscientious workers balanced with enough innovators to keep the economy sharp. If a region doesn't have enough conscientious workers settled in, it is doomed to a policy of constant roiling turmoil. Too much industry turnover, and the economy will be unable to sustain itself through the rough periods. Too little industry turnover, and the economy will be unable to adapt to keep up with competition.

The billion dollar question is how can a region build a base of conscientious workers - the very people who are less likely to move - without at the same time frightening away the mobile innovators?

hat tip 3 quarks daily


Genevieve said...

That's interesting... I'd like to see more of an explanation on that. Some areas of the country have no color at all; is that because we don't have any data, or there isn't a set "personality" of the region? Neuroses are just starting to creep up here to Maine... we're on the raggedy edge, apparently. ;)

Genevieve said...

Right... and if my brain kicks into gear and I actually click on things, I get more of an explanation. Agh. Will read in the morning when I'm awake. :)

Isaac said...

I have the same worries. The maps make it appear as though certain regions have far more activity than others, and I'm not sure if that's because of the density of data Florida's group is working with or if it's really representative.

I'd love to see more local data ("local" means Maine and Toronto, I guess).

I'd also love to see how these plots have changed over the past 50 years.