Ranking the economies of Europe and some of America's biggest cities.

What if Europe were the United States? is a question we've played with often on this page, at a safe distance from the crisis across the ocean. Far from a frivolous query, it helps unpack the difference between a monetary experiment (their euro zone) and a true monetary and fiscal union (our "dollar zone"). The United States has plenty of intractable problems. Deciding whether to keep paying Medicaid for Mississippians after the state has a particularly disappointing year, or century, isn't one of them. Where we have laws and permanent transfer programs, Europe has debates over backstopping bonds and trading month-to-month bailouts for promises of fiscally ruinous austerity.

In short: If you want to understand why Europe looks like Europe, it can help to look at the United States.

This analysis from the Wall Street Journal brings color to the comparison by matching the size of U.S. metro economies to the size of European countries. I did not realize until today that the greater New York City economy was essentially the size of Spain; nor that Los Angeles was bigger than Switzerland; nor that Boston-Cambridge was larger than Greece.

Spain's impending doom.

Screen Shot 2012-07-24 at 11.39.27 AM.png The euro zone as a whole is about $17 trillion, according to the IMF, which makes it about 13 percent larger than the U.S. That means that Spain's share of the euro zone's economy (8.2%) is almost precisely equivalent to New York's share of the U.S. economy, when you include NYC's periphery in Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and parts of Pennsylvania. A useful analog when you hear stories about

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Homes in Amsterdam are pictured.
    Equity

    Amsterdam's Plan: If You Buy a Newly Built House, You Can't Rent It Out

    In an effort to make housing more affordable, the Dutch capital is crafting a law that says anyone who buys a newly built home must live in it themselves.

  2. Design

    Cities Deserve Better Than These Thomas Heatherwick Gimmicks

    The “Vessel” at New York’s Hudson Yards—like so many of his designs—look as if the dystopian world of 1984 has been given a precious makeover.

  3. North Carolina's legislature building.
    Life

    Should Government Agencies Move Out of Capital Cities?

    North Carolina may relocate its Division of Motor Vehicles from Raleigh to boost lagging Rocky Mount. Can this be a national model for decentralizing power?

  4. A photo of a police officer guarding the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal.
    Perspective

    The Troubling Limits of the ‘Great Crime Decline’

    The fall of urban violence since the 1990s was a public health breakthrough, as NYU sociologist Patrick Sharkey says in his book Uneasy Peace. But we must go further.

  5. A photo of U.S. senators and 2020 Democratic Party hopefuls Cory Booker and Kamala Harris
    Equity

    Cory Booker and Kamala Harris Want a Monthly IRS Tax Credit for Rent

    The 2020 Democratic Party hopefuls are both planning bills that would create a tax credit for housing rental assistance every month. How would that work?