Study: How Beauty Is a Boon for Cities

Richard Florida discusses a study finding a range of connections between a city or neighborhood's aesthetic appeal and its economic health.

May 22, 2019, 6:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

High Line park NYC - Manhattan - New York City

David Berkowitz / Flickr

"A raft of previous studies have found a connection between economic and population growth and urban amenities (a broad category ranging from parks to restaurants, art galleries, and museums)," Richard Florida writes. But a new study drawing on tourism data and photos of "Instagrammable" locations takes more direct look at the appeal of good-looking urban places.

Centering their work on "the resurgence and gentrification of neighborhoods in and around the urban center from 1990 to 2010," the researchers found that urban beauty does indeed track with key economic growth indicators. "In fact, urban beauty ties with lower taxes as the most important predictor of overall population growth in cities."

Florida discusses what the study terms the "Central Recreational District," a distinct place from the traditional CBD, attracting newcomers with parks, historic places, landmarks, and other tourism-worthy destinations. "The CRD, not the CBD, is the magnet for the back-to-the-city movement, as more affluent and educated people are drawn to the urban center's abundant amenities and beauty," Florida writes. He also notes that in cities, beautiful places require intentional public policy and investment. 

Finally, the study maintains that concentrated poverty has a distinct negative effect on how tourists rate a city's beauty. Increasing a city's attractiveness, and thus its economic fortunes, could be "an important motivation for poverty alleviation."

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 in CityLab

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