Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Class of Creative, American Workers

The American working class now consists of 33 million employees... that is one-quarter of the entire U.S. workforce.  Blue-collar employees work within what one may consider traditional areas of working class industry - production operations, transportation and materials moving as well as repair and maintenance and construction work.  

As American industry has transformed in recent history, however, so too has its workforce.  In 1920, 40% of American workers were employed within the working class.  From 1950 until 1970 those numbers dwindled by 36% and thereafter fell precipitously within the 1990s.  As ideas of industry have shifted, so too have definitions of "place" as it regards home and work.

Similarly, the American service class, or a robust 43% of the domestic workforce, has shifted.  America's service workers comprise lower-wage, lower-autonomy employees in occupational fields such as health care, food preparation, personal care, clerical work and other lower-end office work.  In direct contrast to trends of the working class, the service class has seen a tremendous rise from 5 million workers in 1900 to its current total of more than 50 million.

These trends and statistics are from Richard Florida's 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class.  Florida's popularity amongst mayors, city planners and, well, New York Times reviewers grant him a strong voice within urban planning circles.  Florida's definition of the Creative Class - the rising class of American workers that may account for the decline of traditional, particularly blue-collar, employees - profiles young professionals, not new occupations.

To be clear, Florida's creative class is defined not by artist occupation or "what they do/make."  But, his point is no less valid.  A new class of creative, American workers is growing:

The Creative Class now includes some 38.3 million Americans, roughly 30 percent of the entire U.S. workforce.  It has grown from rouhly 3 million workers in 1900, an increase of more than tenfold.  At the turn of the twentieth century, the Creative Class made up just 10 percent of the workforce, where it hovered until 1950 when it began a slow rise; it held steady around 20 percent in the 1970s and 1980s.  Since that time, this new class has virtually exploded, increasing from less than 20 million to its current total, reaching 25 percent of the working population in 1991 before climbing to 30 percent by 1999.

The continued growth of the service industry and generation of the creative class redefine planning priorities for cities.  The placement and makeup of home- and work-life within urban centers must reflect the needs f its workers.  REthink Development's Cherokee Studios reflects this change of attitude towards "place," home, and work amongst young professionals.  Cherokee is an opportunity for creative professionals to find vibrant, dynamic life at their doorstep.  Cherokee is an opportunity to live in Hollywood and participate in its development by supporting the critical link between the arts, innovation and community development. 

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