Brooklyn: A Bedroom Community for the Creative Class

Image credit: Flickr Contributor Jorge Quinteros

When Slate Magazine signed a 21,000 square-foot lease in downtown Brooklyn in 2016, the company explained that it was just “following our staff — New York’s Creative Class no longer lives in Manhattan.” Indeed, the rapidly gentrifying borough has become a popular destination for the Creative Class. Over the past decade, the percentage of Brooklyn residents with at least a four-year college degree rose from 35 percent to more than 55 percent.

But how has this rise in creative workers impacted Brooklyn’s economy? Which creative sectors are now driving the borough’s success?

With these questions in mind, my colleague Richard Florida from the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab and I explored the Creative Class structure of New York’s second largest borough. A more complete version of the analysis is available here.

Brooklyn’s Employment

Simply put, Brooklyn is a place where the Creative Class lives rather than works. All together, more than 400,000 Creative Class workers call Brooklyn home. The borough’s creative workers make up 37 percent of its total residents, or 28 percent of New York’s creative residents. Although Brooklyn is widely known for its share of artists, designers, and entertainers, only two in ten creative residents in Brooklyn have skills in arts, media, design, and technology. Meanwhile, around four in ten creative residents in Brooklyn have skills in management and education.

While Brooklyn now rivals Manhattan as a home for the Creative Class, its economy consists of just 180,000 creative professionals — around 30 percent of the borough’s workforce and less than 13 percent of New York City’s total Creative Class employment.

Overall, Brooklyn’s workforce is dominated by the service sector. More than half (51.7 percent) of the borough’s workforce is employed in low-paid, low-skill routine jobs in food preparation and service, retail trade, personal care, clerical and administrative positions, and more. With nearly 313,000 employees (or 16 percent of New York City’s total), Brooklyn’s Service Class is on par with service-oriented economies like Orlando, Las Vegas, and Miami. The borough’s Service Class also boasts a location quotient of 1.54, meaning that its share of service workers far exceeds the national average.

Given how Brooklyn’s Creative Class has evolved, it comes as little surprise that its Service Class has grown alongside it. From 2011 to 2015, Brooklyn’s service jobs grew by 15.7 percent and are projected to grow another 18.5 percent by 2025. Meanwhile, just 18.3 percent of Brooklyn’s workforce (around 110,000 workers) is employed in blue-collar jobs in production, construction, transportation, cleaning, and building and grounds maintenance.

Brooklyn’s Creative Clusters

What are the skills or competitive advantages that distinguish Brooklyn’s 180,000 creative professionals from those in other boroughs? How quickly is this creative workforce growing? The chart below breaks down each of Brooklyn’s creative clusters by employment, ten-year projection, annual salary, and location quotient.

With 46,500 employees, Healthcare Practitioners is by far Brooklyn’s largest creative cluster, comprising almost one-quarter of all Creative Class jobs in the borough. Overall, Brooklyn’s share of healthcare practitioners exceeds the national average by 75 percent, while its share of physicians and surgeons alone is more than three times the national average. Education accounts for another 35,000 creative workers in Brooklyn and is expected to grow 23.1 percent over the next decade. While many of Manhattan’s education workers are employed in higher education, Brooklyn’s education workers are predominately primary and secondary educators.

With a little more than 28,000 employees, Brooklyn’s Management cluster is its third largest — although it still falls slightly behind the U.S. average. Boasting an average annual salary of $121,000, Management has the highest wages of any creative cluster in Brooklyn. Like Management, Brooklyn’s Business and Financial Operations cluster is smaller than the national average, and accounts for a similar share of workers (around 23,000).

With more than 18,000 employees, Brooklyn’s Community and Social Service cluster exceeds the national average by 78 percent. In the next decade, this cluster is expected to grow by 31.8 percent — nearly double the growth of Management and three times the growth of Business and Financial Services.

Although it contains a mere 9,500 employees, Brooklyn’s Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media cluster has seen the most significant growth of all — nearly 30 percent over the last five years. The cluster is also expected to grow another 27.9 percent in the coming decade. Notably, Brooklyn’s design cluster includes five times more fashion designers than the national average.

While companies like Etsy, Livestream, and Vice Media now call Brooklyn home, the borough has yet to develop a strong tech cluster. With just 10,000 workers, Brooklyn’s Computer and Mathematical cluster is 58 percent smaller than the U.S. average. Similarly, the borough’s Life, Physical, and Social Science cluster, as well as its Architecture and Engineering cluster, sits below the national average.

Self-Employed Creatives

In addition to Brooklyn’s full-time creative employees, another 40,200 creative workers in the borough are self-employed. Not only do creative professionals make up the bulk of self-employment in Brooklyn (42 percent), but the borough’s share of self-employed creative workers exceeds the national average by 163 percent. Nearly half of Brooklyn’s self-employed creative professionals (17,500) work in the Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media cluster. By 2025, this share is expected to increase by 20 percent.

Like most New York boroughs, with the exception of Manhattan, Brooklyn is somewhat of a bedroom for the Creative Class: More creative professionals live there than work there. In addition, a significant plurality of Brooklyn’s workforce provides services for the Creative Class. Although Brooklyn’s current creative workforce is dominated by healthcare and education — or so-called “meds and eds” — industries, this could begin to change as more creative companies like Slate begin to migrate to the borough.

STEVEN PEDIGO is the Director of the NYU SPS Schack Institute of Real Estate Urban Lab and a Clinical Assistant Professor for Economic Development at the NYU School of Professional Studies. He is also the Director of the Research and Advising for the Creative Class Group, an Associate Partner at Resonance Consultancy (Vancouver/ NYC), and a Senior Advisor for Leland Consulting(Portland). Follow him on twitter @iamstevenpedigo.

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