People cross a street in the Akihabara shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, January 10, 2017. The Tokyo metro area GDP-PPP is $1.6 trillion, about the same as Spain or Canada. Toru Hanai/Reuters

Sorry, Canada—your entire economy would fit inside Tokyo.

This post is part of a CityLab series on power—the political kind, the stuff inside batteries and gas tanks, and the transformative might of mass movements.

We’ve been talking about power this week at CityLab. Although it’s common to rate and rank the economic power of nations—think of all the articles you’ve read about China catching up with and eventually overtaking the United States in terms of GDP—the real economic power centers of the world economy are cities and metro areas.

To put that into perspective, let’s look at how the economies of the world’s largest metros match up to national economies. We based this comparison on gross domestic product at purchasing power parity, or GDP-PPP. The data for metros is for 2015 and comes from the Brookings Institution’s Redefining Global Cities report, which draws on data from Moody’s Analytics and Oxford Economics; the data for nations is also for 2015 from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.

The map below, by Taylor Blake of the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), tells the story.

(Taylor Blake/MPI)

Some highlights of the comparison:

  • Tokyo, the world’s largest metro economy with $1.6 trillion in GDP-PPP, is just slightly smaller than all of South Korea. Were it a nation, Tokyo would rank as the 15th largest economy in the world.
  • New York City’s $1.5 trillion GDP places it among the world’s twenty largest economies, just a tick under those of Spain and Canada.
  • Los Angeles’ $928 billion GDP is bit smaller than Australia’s, with $1.1 trillion.
  • Seoul ($903 billion) has a bigger economy than Malaysia ($817 billion).
  • London’s $831 billion GDP makes its economic activity on par with the Netherlands ($840 billion).
  • Paris, with $819 billion in GDP, has a bigger economy than South Africa, $726 billion.
  • The $810 billion economy of Shanghai outranks that of the Philippines, with $744 billion.

If you added the ten largest metros together, you’d get a GDP-PPP of $9.5 trillion—bigger than the world’s fourth and fifth largest national economies, Japan and Germany, combined. Take the twenty largest global metros (GDP of $14.6 trillion) and you’re not far from the United States’ $18 trillion dollar economy.

In other words: Cities really are the new power centers of the global economy—the platforms for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth. But when it comes to fiscal and political power, they remain beholden to increasingly anachronistic and backward-looking nation-states, which has become distressingly obvious with the rise of Trumpism in the United States and populism around the world.

The greatest challenge facing us today is how to ensure that global cities have the economic, fiscal, and political power to govern themselves and to continue to be a force for innovation and human progress.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  2. Transportation

    When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer

    The largest transit agency in the U.S. is building a mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station north of Manhattan.

  3. A rendering of Oakland, California, that replaces Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard
    Transportation

    Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die

    The Congress for New Urbanism once again ranks the most-loathed urban freeways in North America—and makes the case for tearing them down.

  4. a photo of a BYD-built electric bus.
    Transportation

    A Car-Centric City Makes a Bid for a Better Bus System

    Indianapolis is set to unveil a potentially transformative all-electric bus rapid transit line, along with a host of major public transportation upgrades.

  5. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

×