One of the big questions in urbanism is the degree to which culture shapes economic development. Traditionally, it was thought that culture follows from economic development: The more developed and affluent that a city becomes, the more money that it has to spend creating art galleries, museums, concert halls, and other cultural venues.
But my own writing on the creative class and a large number of other studies argue that culture acts as a key factor in economic development by helping attract talented, ambitious people to cities. Others go further, contending that arts and culture are large industries that act as direct inputs into development.
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.