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Richard Florida and a strange explosion of rainbow-colored light.

Richard Florida sort of annoys me. He’s the guy that always talks about the “Creative Class” and how it can influence cities. In other words: Gay/smart/educated/artsy young people+decaying urban areas=rejuvenation!

It just seems like long ago Florida picked out a professional thesis (stated above), in which to frame all of his arguments regardless of their content. Irritating! But it worked—-considering he’s now pretty famous.

And Florida’s latest article in the Atlantic Monthly makes some provocative points.

His piece “How the Crash Will Reshape America” argues that the American Dream isn’t all its cracked up to be. We as a society should stop being so fixated on buying houses and instead embrace renting. For one, homeowners are not more content than renters. Also, homeownership implants people in dying communities. Not good for them or America!

If anything, our government policies should encourage renting, not buying. Homeownership occupies a central place in the American Dream primarily because decades of policy have put it there. A recent study by Grace Wong, an economist at the Wharton School of Business, shows that, controlling for income and demographics, homeowners are no happier than renters, nor do they report lower levels of stress or higher levels of self-esteem.

And while homeownership has some social benefits—a higher level of civic engagement is one—it is costly to the economy. The economist Andrew Oswald has demonstrated that in both the United States and Europe, those places with higher homeownership rates also suffer from higher unemployment. Homeownership, Oswald found, is a more important predictor of unemployment than rates of unionization or the generosity of welfare benefits. Too often, it ties people to declining or blighted locations, and forces them into work—if they can find it—that is a poor match for their interests and abilities.

As homeownership rates have risen, our society has become less nimble: in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were nearly twice as likely to move in a given year as they are today. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s. This sort of creeping rigidity in the labor market is a bad sign for the economy, particularly in a time when businesses, industries, and regions are rising and falling quickly.

“This quote is actually from an interview with Florida on the Atlantic‘s website.

Image from Creativeclass.com