Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
And other eye-popping comparisons.
You have to hand it to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for this slick comparison: Metropolitan New York City actually has a larger economy than the entire state of New York. (How's that possible, you wonder? The economic juggernaut that is metro New York defies state boundaries, encompassing Northern New Jersey, Long Island and parts of Pennsylvania, while abandoning much of upstate New York.)
Same with Metropolitan Washington, D.C., whose economy alone – measured in gross annual product – is larger than both the states of Maryland and Virginia that contain parts of it.
In fact, if metros were states, five of the 15 largest economies in the U.S. right now would belong to metropolitan regions. Add up the 10 highest-producing metros in the country, and together they have more economic might than the 36 least-producing states in America.
Why stop there? On the global map, Metro New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago would all be among the top 25 economies in the world (this exercise conveniently only compares U.S. cities to countries, not international cities). That's better than Sweden, Norway, Poland, Belgium, and Argentina.
These comparisons all come from the most recent report on metro economies from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which clearly understands the power of analogy to portray cities as economic engines on a global scale.
This latest report ranks metropolitan areas against each other, too. But this is a little more fun. Below, we've plotted the report's data for the largest states and countries (you can view the full lists for all 363 U.S. metros here; to skip to the bottom, Palm Coast, Florida, compares quite favorably to East Timor). All numbers are in billions of U.S. dollars of gross annual product, from 2012.