Some Studies, Facts and Theories about Social Class, Culture and Creativity


The Creative Age has been distinguished by the rise of two great social classes. The first is the Creative Class, workers in science and technology, arts, culture and entertainment, healthcare, law and management, whose occupations are based on mental or creative labor. The second and larger one is the Service Class, whose members prepare and serve food, carry out routine clerical and administrative tasks, provide home and personal health assistance, do janitorial work, and the like. The Service Class has grown alongside the Creative Class, rising from twenty percent of the workforce in the late nineteenth century and thirty percent in the 1950s to almost half of the workforce, 60 million plus workers, today.

This article draws from material in chapter three of The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited released by Basic Books on June 26th. Richard Florida is a professor at the University of Toronto and NYU and senior editor of The Atlantic.


This special edition of the Creative Economy Report argues that creativity and culture are processes or attributes that are intimately bound up in the imagining and generation of new ideas, products or ways of interpreting the world. All these have monetary and non-monetary benefits that can be recognized as instrumental to human development. Transformational change is thus under- stood within a broader framework of human development and is recognized as a process that enhances the effective freedom of the people to pursue whatever they have reason to value.5

“Culture is a driver of development, led by the growth of the creative economy in general and the creative and cultural industries in particular, recognized not only for their economic value, but also increasingly for the role in producing new creative ideas or technologies, and their non-monetized social benefits. ”

The first two editions of the Creative Economy Report touched, albeit lightly, on evidence that the creative economy is an important fountainhead of creativity and component of growth, and that it impacts non-economic human development goods. Notably, the 2010 Report found that “adequately nurtured, creativity fuels culture, infuses a human-centered development and constitutes the key ingredient for job creation, innovation and trade while contributing to social inclusion, cultural diversity and environmental sustainability”.

FROM A Special Edition of The Creative Economy Report published by UNESCO in 2013


We have known for decades, since Hart and Risley’s seminal research published in 1995, that children who come from homes of poverty are exposed to millions of fewer spoken words in the home environment by the time they enter school than children who are raised in homes where the parents are professionals. Neuroscientists have recognized that human brain maturation is experience-dependent and one of the most important times for experience to mold the brain is from early childhood through the elementary school years.  It goes without saying that the less language a child is exposed to the fewer opportunities the brain has to develop language skills

The Study

Hart and Risley recruited 42 families to participate in the study including 13 high-income families, 10 families of middle socio-economic status, 13 of low socio-economic status, and 6 families who were on welfare. Monthly hour-long observations of each family were conducted from the time the child was seven months until age three. Gender and race were also balanced within the sample.


The results of the study were more severe than the researchers anticipated. Observers found that 86 percent to 98 percent of the words used by each child by the age of three were derived from their parents’ vocabularies. Furthermore, not only were the words they used nearly identical, but also the average number of words utilized, the duration of their conversations, and the speech patterns were all strikingly similar to those of their caregivers.

After establishing these patterns of learning through imitation, the researchers next analyzed the content of each conversation to garner a better understanding of each child’s experience. They found that the sheer number of words heard varied greatly along socio-economic lines. On average, children from families on welfare were provided half as much experience as children from working class families, and less than a third of the experience given to children from high-income families. In other words, children from families on welfare heard about 616 words per hour, while those from working class families heard around 1,251 words per hour, and those from professional families heard roughly 2,153 words per hour. Thus, children being raised in middle to high-income class homes had far more language exposure to draw from.

In addition to looking at the number of words exchanged, the researchers also looked at what was being said within these conversations. What they found was that higher-income families provided their children with far more words of praise compared to children from low-income families. Conversely, children from low-income families were found to endure far more instances of negative reinforcement compared to their peers from higher-income families. Children from families with professional backgrounds experienced a ratio of six encouragements for every discouragement. For children from working-class families this ratio was two encouragements to one discouragement. Finally, children from families on welfare received on average two discouragements for every encouragement. Therefore, children from families on welfare seemed to experience more negative vocabulary than children from professional and working-class families.

A summary from “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3” by University of Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley. (2003)


So what does it take to raise a creative child? One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule.

Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it’s easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to “place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules,” the Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports.

Even then, though, parents didn’t shove their values down their children’s throats. When psychologists compared America’s most creative architects with a group of highly skilled but unoriginal peers, there was something unique about the parents of the creative architects: “Emphasis was placed on the development of one’s own ethical code.”

Yes, parents encouraged their children to pursue excellence and success — but they also encouraged them to find “joy in work.” Their children had freedom to sort out their own values and discover their own interests. And that set them up to flourish as creative adults.

From New York Times Sunday Review
How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off
Adam Grant JAN. 30, 2016