Discussion paper

DP14560 Hipsters vs. Geeks? Creative workers, STEM and innovation in US cities

Innovation in cities is increasingly regarded as an outcome of two potential inputs: scientific activity and creativity. Recent research using firm level data has suggested that actually it might be the combination of these two inputs, rather than the mere presence of workers representing each group, which matters. Yet there is little evidence on whether this relationship holds using city level data in the case of the United States (US). This paper investigates this gap in our knowledge by examining how the combination of STEM (geeks) and creative workers (hipsters) in a panel of 290 US Metropolitan Statistical Areas during the period between 2005 and 2015 relates to city level innovation. The results indicate that, although the presence of STEM workers is a more important driver of innovation than that of creative ones, the most innovative cities are characterised by a combination of the two. Hence, current policies which tend to focus mainly on either STEM or creativity may be better targeted at ensuring interactions between the two.


Rodríguez-Pose, A and N Lee (2020), ‘DP14560 Hipsters vs. Geeks? Creative workers, STEM and innovation in US cities‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14560. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14560