The Quest for Creative Industries: A Multilevel National Study of the Impacts of Urban Form on the Geography of Creative Industries

Publication Date

April 2019

Document Type


Publication Title

Transportation Research Record







First Page


Last Page



Creative industries have gained increasing attention in light of the cultural economy as viable magnets for local and regional economic development. Policy makers thus would benefit from attracting creative industries as potential economic boosters. However, it is hard to target such catalyst industries without better knowledge of the urban form conditions that may influence the location preference of these industries; do creative industries favor compact, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with transit accessibility to employment? This paper, as one of the first national studies, answers this question using a multilevel modeling approach to control for the socioeconomic and built environment characteristics at both local and regional levels. Factor analysis is used to define a Creative Score, which captures the geography of creative industries using the number of creative firms, employment, the percentage of creative firms, and a creative employment location quotient. The compactness/sprawl index is used at both census tract and metropolitan levels as a proxy for urban form. Accounting for the socioeconomic factors, the findings suggest that, at the neighborhood level, the compactness index is significantly and positively associated with the Creative Score. Every 10% increase in compactness score results in a 0.3% increase in Creative Score at the census tract level. This is partly because compact neighborhoods provide creative industries with a stronger consumer base as a reliable source of development. Compact urban form also serves agglomeration economies by facilitating knowledge exchange, reducing travel time and costs, and giving greater accessibility to destinations by transit.


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