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CONTEXTUALIZING THE ARTISTIC DIVIDEND

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ABSTRACT

Artists have been a central theme in recent debates about the causes of urban development. This article shifts attention to the question of context: in what sorts of places are artist concentrations most likely to stimulate the local economy? To tackle this question, we employ a Canadian national database of local amenities. This database includes roughly 1.8 million total amenities in 1,800 distinct categories, across every Canadian locality. By coding these amenity categories on 16 qualitative dimensions (like self-expression, glamour, or neighborliness), we measure the specific cultural “scene” for each Canadian neighborhood. Our main findings are threefold. First, in general there is a strong correlation between artist populations and rising local wages. Second, this correlation is strengthened in more self-expressive, glamorous, and charismatic scenes. Third, in contrast to artists, “creative professionals” are linked with lower local wage growth generally and in such scenes. Finally, synthesizing these results, we conclude with a comment about what it might mean for “bourgeois” and “bohemian” lifestyle preferences to become more tightly integrated in contemporary postindustrial contexts, offering evidence based on the location of artists, graphic designers, and advertising firms that processes of functional differentiation and interchange may provide a more compelling explanation than processes of fusion and conflict.

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