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Richard Florida Releases Inclusive Prosperity Report

Richard Florida Releases Inclusive Prosperity Report
Inaugural Philadelphia Fellow focuses on work of anchor institutions in spreading economic growth to include all of the city’s neighborhoods

PHILADELPHIA – Richard Florida, PhD, a distinguished scholar known for his groundbreaking research on urban demographic changes, today released a report, Philadelphia’s Next Challenge: From Urban Revitalization to Inclusive Prosperity, to culminate his work as the inaugural Philadelphia Fellow. The outcome of the fellowship, conceived and initiated by Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University and the University City Science Center, will be presented on Oct. 17th at Venture Café Philadelphia (3675 Market Street) from 5-6 p.m.

“We’re grateful to Richard for holding a mirror to the city’s challenges in equity and inclusion, but also for offering recommendations for how anchor institutions can deepen their commitment to spreading prosperity to the city as a whole. He’s issued a worthy challenge and we look forward to working collaboratively to realize it,” said John Fry, president of Drexel University.

The report’s findings warn that Philadelphia must address issues relating to inequality and inclusion if it is to continue its growth trajectory. While its gentrification and affordability issues are not yet as challenging as most leading cities, its lagging median income, education attainment and poverty markers contribute to the city being among the nation’s worst in inequality and segregation metrics. Among its findings which signal a need for decisive, collaborative action:

  • Downward millennial trend: “The metro’s rate of millennial population growth fell to just 2.6 percent per year from 2010 to 2015, dropping from number one to number 80 of the nation’s 350 or so metro areas.”
  • Middle-class departure: “Philadelphia’s middle-class numbers are even lower today, having shrunk to just over 200,000 (217,833) residents. This is just 36 percent of the city’s population, the sixth smallest share of the nation’s fifty biggest cities. And the city’s rate of middle-class growth between 2012 and 2017 of negative 3.3 percent is the fifth worst of those fifty largest cities”
  • Lack of jobs/quality schools accelerating departures: “A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts examining who is leaving Philadelphia found that education plays a major role. The people moving out are those who can: Movers are disproportionately young, white and educated. Half of all movers were between the ages of 18 and 34, a group that comprised just 30 percent of the city’s population.”

“Philadelphia’s health and education disparities have held it back from reaching its full potential. Jefferson is committed to helping design the healthy and smart cities of the future, including here at home. We look forward to working together with our partners to create action steps for moving forward,” said Mark Tykocinski, MD, provost of Thomas Jefferson University.

To remedy these negative trends, Florida suggests the city’s anchors institutions work with the City, Chamber of Commerce and community leaders to implement four pillars:

  • Ensure affordable housing, with anchors leading the way through their on-campus-student policies and collaborating on building affordable and below market housing.
  • Create a more inclusive innovation economy, with anchors continuing to lead and bolster inclusive innovation efforts
  • Turn low-wage service jobs into family-sustaining work by anchors paying a living wage and requiring vendors to do so as well
  • Spread prosperity to all areas of the city through the anchors making inclusive development part of their core mission and working strategically to ensure prosperity for the whole city.

“The University City Science Center’s partnership with Thomas Jefferson University and Drexel University underscores the central role that anchor institutions play in ensuring the innovation economy creates opportunities for everyone, and the Science Center looks forward to continuing to lead as a hub of inclusive prosperity to advance the growth trajectory of the city for everyone,” said Tracy Brala, the Science Center’s vice president of ecosystem development.

The Philadelphia Fellowship is a collaborative program created in 2018 by the three partner institutions to invite thought leaders and scholars to Philadelphia for year-long research engagements focused on pressing urban issues, such as inclusive economic growth, infrastructure renewal and development of smart cities.

Florida was selected for the inaugural Fellowship for his pathbreaking writing and research as author of two seminal urbanist treatises—The Rise of the Creative Class and The New Urban Crisis. Florida also serves as the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and Professor in the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto.

"Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities and it was an honor to take a deep dive into its difficult challenges and immense opportunities for prosperity that includes all of its residents through the Philadelphia Fellowship. I believe both the city and the highly engaged leadership I met through this work can meet the challenge ahead and blaze a more equitable trail that other cities will look to and follow,” said Florida.

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Kristen Fitch

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