Urban economists have put forward the idea that cities that are culturally interesting tend to attract “the creative class” and, as a result, end up being economically successful. Yet it is still unclear how economic and cultural dynamics mutually influence each other. By contrast, that has been extensively studied in the case of individuals. Over decades, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu showed that people’s success and their positions in society mainly depend on how much they can spend (their economic capital) and what their interests are (their cultural capital). For the first time, we adapt Bourdieu’s framework to the city context. We operationalize a neighborhood’s cultural capital in terms of the cultural interests that pictures geo-referenced in the neighborhood tend to express. This is made possible by the mining of what users of the photo-sharing site of Flickr have posted in the cities of London and New York over 5 years. In so doing, we are able to show that economic capital alone does not explain urban development. The combination of cultural capital and economic capital, instead, is more indicative of neighborhood growth in terms of house prices and improvements of socio-economic conditions. Culture pays, but only up to a point as it comes with one of the most vexing urban challenges: that of gentrification.
The New Urban Success: How Culture Pays
Desislava Hristova, Luca M. Aiello and Daniele Quercia
Front. Phys., 09 April 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fphy.2018.00027