A new study, drawing on 1.5 million images of cultural spaces in London and New York, finds that cultural capital is contributor to urban growth
A new paper takes a deep dive into the connection between culture and economic development in New York and London. The paper, written by a team of scientists from Nokia Bell Labs, Cambridge, and published in the journal Frontiers in Physics, looks at the ways in which culture and cultural capital interact with economic factors (such as changes in median income and house prices) to shape urban economic development. And because urban economic development and culture are increasingly seen to be associated with rising gentrification and deepening inequality, it also looks at the effects of cultural capital on housing prices and housing affordability in these cities.
To do this, the researchers tracked roughly 1.5 million photographic images of the venues and events that comprise the cultural capital of both New York and London. Their study breaks down cultural capital into nine categories: advertising and marketing; architecture; crafts; design (product, graphic, and fashion); film (TV, video, radio, and photography); IT software and computer services; publishing; museums, galleries, and libraries; and music, performing, and visual arts.
The study gauges the effects of these types of cultural capital on both median income, house prices, and composite indexes of urban development in London’s 33 boroughs and 60 of New York’s 71 community districts over the period 2007 to 2014, which spans the Great Recession and its recovery. The overarching takeaway is that culture or cultural capital plays a key role, operating alongside more traditional economic factors, in shaping urban development.1
The New Urban Success: How Culture Pays
Desislava Hristova, Luca M. Aiello and Daniele Quercia
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.
Front. Phys., 09 April 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fphy.2018.00027