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What makes an artist? The evolution and clustering of creative activity in the US since 1850

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  • Borowiecki, Karol Jan
  • Dahl, Christian Møller

Abstract

This research illuminates the historical development and clustering of creative activity in the United States. Census data is used to identify creative occupations (i.e., artists, musicians, authors, actors) and data on prominent creatives, as listed in a comprehensive biographical compendium. The analysis first sheds light on the socio-economic background of creative people and how it has changed since 1850. The results indicate that the proportion of female creatives is relatively high, time constraints can be a hindrance for taking up a creative occupation, racial inequality is present and tends to change only slowly, and access to financial resources within a family facilitates the uptake of an artistic occupation. Second, the study systematically documents and quantifies the geography of creative clusters in the United States and explains how these have evolved over time and across creative domains.

Suggested Citation

  • Borowiecki, Karol Jan & Dahl, Christian Møller, 2021. "What makes an artist? The evolution and clustering of creative activity in the US since 1850," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:regeco:v:86:y:2021:i:c:s0166046220302994
    DOI: 10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2020.103614
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Creativity; Artists; Geographic clustering; Agglomeration economies; Urban history;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature

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