NEWSWEEK: The conventional wisdom is that, with technologies that
allow us to work from anywhere, place is mattering less and less. Why
is that not the case, and how are we getting it wrong?
FLORIDA: What I realized after studying this for a couple of decades
is that no one's ever really given advice about how important the
place you choose to live is. We now know that place is really
important. It's part of a triangle of career, family, and the place
you live. You know, people said the same thing about trade and
technology making place less important when the telegraph was
invented. But what we found in our research is that 40 million
Americas move each year, and 15 million make really significant moves
50 to 100 miles out of the county they live in. That's a lot. And
young people with high levels of education are the most likely to
move. I call this the "brain migration" or the "means migration." In
the past, mostly every city had the same profile of people: some
college graduates, some graduate school graduates, some high school
graduates, some high school dropouts. But now more and more highly
educated people are moving to a smaller number of cities.
What does that mean for a given city?
In a place like San Francisco or Washington, D.C., about 50 percent of
the total population in those regions is composed of people with a
college degree or more. A place like Detroit might have 10 or 12
percent. And it's not just educational profile. What we're also seeing
is a migration of people with a certain personality type. They want to
have a new thrill, experience new things, and be in an interesting
neighborhood. They're also the kind of people most likely to create
new innovations, whether that's in music or film or high technology.
Those people are seeking out a certain number of places, like greater
New York, greater Washington, greater Boston, San Francisco, Los
Angeles. So from a technology point of view, there's a link between
where people migrate and the psychology of those people, and where
people innovate and create new ventures.
Sounds like this is all due to those very same technological
innovations—teleconferencing, Internet access, etc.—that led people to
the "world is flat" idea that you're refuting.
Technology makes the world smaller, but it also makes the world
spikier. I'm not arguing against Thomas Friedman, but saying there's
this additional force. I think he and others are aware of it, but I
think people have glossed over it. Economic activity is not only
becoming more concentrated but also more specialized. New York is
great in fashion design and investment banking. San Francisco's great
in software. L.A.'s great in entertainment technology. And Nashville
is the epicenter of music production. So if you want to pursue a given
career, it's not just that you can make it in any big city, because
now there is a smaller number of big cities that will be the key
places for you.