Who’s Your City?

by on March 10, 2008 at 7:26 am in Books | Permalink

The always-interesting Richard Florida has a new book out, namely Who’s Your City: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live The Most Important Decision of Your Life.

The book tells you how to find the city for you (for me it is Los Angeles, but somehow closer to everything else, and with better bookshops) and why the mood of a city matters. 

Is the following true:? The class of city you live in matters less than before, because you can use Amazon or Starbucks in either Manhattan or Chattanooga.  But within a class of city, personality now matters more precisely because people can sort themselves on the basis of personality rather than convenience.

What about me?  I enjoy living in an area which is not totally flat and I also enjoy the feeling that I can drive from one mini-region to another and experience changes; Maryland and DC really do differ from Virginia.  I felt hedged in living in Wellington, New Zealand and in general I don’t like having my back to the water.

Last week Robin Hanson and I discussed which would be the best city to live in if a) all your basic needs were taken care of, and b) you could not otherwise spend any money.  Oxford, even with mediocre weather, seemed like a strong pick.  There is a true intellectual community and everything there costs a lot anyway; not being able to spend any money isn’t so different from the reality.

1 Trieu Truong March 10, 2008 at 7:49 am

If we’re being hypothetical, why pick just one city to live in?

2 Seamus McCauley March 10, 2008 at 9:10 am

My friend Rick likes to ask people where they would live if they could live anywhere in the world, and tends to accept as valid only the answer “but I *can* live anywhere in the world”.

Personally I like hills at my back because I grew up with hills at my back. I’m complicated like that.

3 liberty March 10, 2008 at 9:30 am

Absolutely. But the academic’s viewpoint on this (as on many things) is rather skewed. For most people, choice of city is still primarily based on which one offers the best career potential for your industry.

I grew up in NYC, and it took me a while to realize that NYC is really only good if you are in one of the (many) industries for which NY is the place to be. If you are interested in policy and Austrian economics, its actually very much the wrong place to be, as it turns out.

Meanwhile DC is the epicenter.

If you have a choice between two perfect (or equally good) places for your career, then you can start thinking about personality types, weather, hills at your back, etc.

(Unless your career is also about hills and weather – like farming).

4 londenio March 10, 2008 at 10:09 am

The key aspect of the question is “not being able to spend any money”. I would really like to see how people’s preferred choices change with and without this condition.

For instance, Stockholm goes up the ranking under those conditions. If I am prevented from becoming rich, then I choose to live in a city that is designed for and populated by people that are prevented from being rich and they are happy about it.

5 Lee March 10, 2008 at 10:14 am

I find it rather interesting that no one (other than Tyler–nominally) has mentioned cultural amenities or communities.

I think that liberty’s point about the existence of a professional community extends to avocational communities. Even if I can read a book about a given hobby in Chattanooga, that doesn’t mean that I can practice it at a high level, or even practice it all, if there doesn’t exist a community of fellow hobbyists.

Certainly the Internet and cheap travel have made it much easier to be, say, a model train builder, because you can more easily get the supplies you need, and you can see what others around the world are doing. But I’m not convinced that geography has yet ceased to play a pivotal role for many hobbies, simply because the Internet is an imperfect substitute for experiencing things in person. Most importantly, it is often the convenience of a preexisting community that gets people involved in such hobbies in the first place.

Then again, what do I know. I picked the city (DC) with the best swing dancing. 😉

6 Ted Craig March 10, 2008 at 11:21 am

I really question how easy it is for the average person to move to their ideal location. First, there’s the issue of getting a good job somewhere you want to live. Second, many people have extended family considerations.

7 bartman March 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Ned: I guess it depends on how often you like going to the opera or museum, or flying somewhere else.

8 Steve Sailer March 10, 2008 at 4:55 pm

LA is getting cheaper — the median price of a home in the San Fernando Valley fell from $655,000 in June to $500,000 in January, with no bottom in sight.

9 PLW March 10, 2008 at 5:31 pm

“If you have a choice between two perfect (or equally good) places for your career, then you can start thinking about personality types, weather, hills at your back, etc.”

Why do so many people treat career preferences as lexicographic? This isn’t obvious to me at all. I would assume, first, that preferences are concave on every dimension. Sure, career means money, and we think money is almost linear, but I think that’s just to make the math easier.

10 James Ament March 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Why a city at all? I happily live on a dirt road in the foothills well above Denver, a place I seldom visit… and I don’t feel the least bit deprived.

11 James Ament March 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Why a city at all? I happily live on a dirt road in the foothills well above Denver, a place I seldom visit… and I don’t feel the least bit deprived.

12 gweipo March 11, 2008 at 7:53 am

Hong Kong is my place. And I’ve met quite a few people recently who’ve chosen to retire here. Pity about the pollution though.
According to an ex-copper who had Oxford as his beat it is one of the worst places in the world to live! A lot of social problems (outside the rarified academia) …

13 secret asian man March 12, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Where’s your city?

Asking someone what their favorite city to live in is like having one economist remark to another that he’s always wanted a Porsche.

I live where I do because it’s got a low cost of living and a good economy (current income/house price ratio for me is 1/3, soon to be 1/2). I keep fantasizing about moving to Knoxville, riding my motorcycle in the Smokies, and seducing beautiful college girls.

But I don’t, just like the economist who doesn’t have a Porsche.

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