Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Creative Lower Saxony: regional distribution, spatial mobility, start-up potentials and economic relevance of creative people

Creative Lower Saxony: regional distribution, spatial mobility, start-up potentials and economic relevance of creative people

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Rolf Sternberg
Team:  Dipl.-Geogr. Christoph Alfken, Dipl.-Geogr. Daniel Voßen
Year:  2015
Funding:  The Lower Saxon Ministry of Science and Culture
Duration:  2011 – 2015
Is Finished:  yes

Richard Florida’s concept of the “creative class” essentially contributed to the fact that many city planners concentrated their activities on attracting and promoting “creative industries” and creative people. Numerous reports on creative or culture industries from cities as well as from federal state governments or from the German federal government give evidence to the popularity of the concept. Similar to the cluster concept economic politicians tended to adopt a concept before there was any empirical verification for regions outside the USA. In times of scarce governmental resources this bears the risk of misallocation of public funds. The project attempts to eradicate research deficits by analysing selected city regions in Lower Saxony. In order to analyse the mobility of creative people and their impact on the regional economy individual data of creative people will be utilized. Furthermore, the perceived high number of start-ups related to the “creative class” and their positive implications for the regional economy play a central role in the research project. Florida delivered only empirical (divisive) evidence for metropolitan areas in the US. Previous studies about European regions left Lower Saxon cities out of consideration. The transfer of findings from other countries seems not to be reasonable.

The project puts strong emphasis on empirical research because of huge research gaps in that very field. Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data four central research questions should be answered. On the one hand, the project uses secondary data from official authorities, which partly had never been applied on this topic before and, on the other hand, it conducts primary data by interviewing members of the “creative class”. The first research question deals with the spatial distribution of the creative people in Lower Saxony. Static as well as dynamic aspects will be described and explained. The second question addresses the relation between mobility and the distribution of the creative people in Lower Saxony based upon primary data. The third research question is about the creative class’ effects on the regional economy and related variables like employment, number and size of companies and their value added. The fourth question is concerned with the relation between migration of creative people and their entrepreneurial activities, thereby focusing on start-ups external to the region. With respect to the methodology the project breaks new ground because three out of the four research questions can only be answered by interviewing creative people face-to-face. Considering the numerous strategies developed to promote creative industries in Lower Saxony our findings can help to evaluate and reconceptualise present strategies. Hence, guidance for decision makers should be developed. In this context the project intends to clarify by which means the quantity and quality of creative people and their effects on the regional economy could be influenced.

The project has a large transfer potential due to the circumstance that the developed concept of acquisition and assessment of creative people could be transferred to other Lower Saxon cities and regions.


  • Vossen, D.; Sternberg, R.; Alfken, C. (2019): Internal migration of the 'creative class' in Germany. Regional Studies 53(10), 1359-1370. DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2019.1566699
  • Vossen, D.; Alfken, C.; Sternberg, R. (2018): Kreative im ländlichen Raum – Eine quantitative Bestandsaufnahme. In: K. Wolter, D. Schiller und C. Hesse (Hrsg.)(2018): Kreative Pioniere in ländlichen Räumen, Stuttgart: Steinbeis, S. 28-61.
  • Alfken, C.; Voßen, D.; Sternberg, R. (2017): Wieviel Florida steck t in Niedersachsen? Zur empirischen Evidenz der “Creative Class” in einem deutschen Flächenland. Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie 61(1), 1-22. DOI: 10.1515/zfw-2016-0032
  • Sternberg, R. (2017): Creativity support policies as a means of development policy for the Global South? A critical appraisal of the UNESCO Creative Economy Report 2013. Regional Studies 51(2),336-345. DOI: 10.1080/00343404.2016.1174844
  • Alfken, C.; Brökel, T.; Sternberg, R. (2015): Factors explaining the spatial agglomeration of the Creative Class – Empirical evidence for German artists. European Planning Studies 23(12). 2438-2483. DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2014.979767
  • Alfken, C. (2015): Ich will nicht nach Berlin! – Life course analysis of interregional migration behaviour of people from the field of design and advertising. Environment and Planning A, 47, 2187-2203. DOI: 10.1177/0308518X15599287
  • Alfken, C. (2014): Creative Class vs. Individual Creativity. In: Bernhard, I. (Ed.): Geography of Growth. The Frequency, Nature and Consequences of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Regions of Varying Density. (Proceedings of the 17th Uddevalla Symposium 2014), pp. 11-28. ( = Research Reports 2014:02, University West, Trollhättan, Sweden).
  • Hülz, M.; Voßen, D. (2013): Ebert, R.; Kunzmann, K. R.; Lange, B. (2012): Kreativwirtschaftspolitik in Metropolen. Detmold: Verlag Dorothea Rohn. ISBN 9783939486633. In: Raumforschung und Raumordnung 71(6): 509-510. Link
  • Sternberg, R. (2012): Learning from the Past? Why ‘Creative Industries’ Can hardly Be Created by Local/Regional Government Policies. In: Die Erde 143(4), 293-317.
  • Sternberg, R. (2011): Zur Kreierbarkeit von Kreativwirtschaften in Deutschland. In: Bekmeier-Feuerhahn, S.; van den Berg, K.; Höhne, S.; Keller, R.; Mandel, M.; Tröndle, M.; Zembylas, T. (Hrsg.): Kulturmanagement und Kulturpolitik. Jahrbuch Kulturmanagement 2011. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, S. 221-242.

Presentations to Scientific Audiences:

  • Sternberg, R.; Alfken, C.; Voßen, D.: Internal migration of the ‘creative class’ in Germany. Conference on "Skilled Migration and Labor Shortage in Non-Metropolitan Areas". Jena, 25.3.2019.
  • Sternberg, R.: Wieviel Florida steckt in Niedersachsen? Zur empirischen Evidenz der ,Kreativen Klassen` in einem deutschen Flächenland. Arbeitsgruppe zur Stärkung der Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft in Niedersachsen, Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur. Hannover, 19.10.2017.
  • Sternberg, R.: Kreatives Niedersachsen? Empirische Evidenz und wirtschaftspolitische Implikationen des Creative Class - Konzepts. Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit. Braunschweig 22. Juni 2016.
  • Alfken, C.: Creative class vs. individual creativity - A multilevel approach to the geography of creativity. 54th ERSA Congress, August 26-29, 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Vossen, D.: Migration of the Creative Class in Germany. 54th European Regional Science Association Congress, 26.-29. August 2014. Saint Petersburg, Russia.
  • Alfken, C.: Creative class vs. individual creativity - A multilevel approach to the geography of creativity. 17th Uddevalla Symposium, 12.-14. June 2014. Uddevalla, Sweden.
  • Alfken, C.: Creative Class and The Big Five – Personality Traits, Occupations, and Geography. Jahrestreffen des Arbeitskreis Industriegeographie, 11.-12. Oktober 2013. Naurod-Niedernhausen.
  • Alfken, C.: Sources of Inspiration and Firm Performance – A Study of Entrepreneurs in Creative Industries. Workshop “Kollektive Identitäten und graduelle Transformation in Clustern der Kreativwirtschaft”. Universität Stuttgart, 01.07.2013.
  • Alfken, C.: Artists over time and space – empirical evidence from German regions. The Regional Studies Association Research Network “Creative Regions in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities”. Third Research Seminar. Copenhagen, 18.04.2012.
  • Sternberg, R.: Kann und soll man Kreativwirtschaft fördern? Wie kreativ ist Hannover? Perspektiven der Kreativwirtschaft in der Region Hannover. Fachforum Kreativwirtschaft. Hannover, 03.02.2012.
  • Sternberg, R.: Macht Kreativwirtschaftspolitik Sinn? Forschungskolloquium Institut für Wirtschafts- und Kulturgeographie, Leibniz Universität Hannover. Hannover, 04.01.2012.