Measuring and Comparing World Cities

Working paper 9 from the Economics Intelligence Unit of the Greater London Authority. Arising from our work on London’s Workforce, it became clear that London needed to make meaningful comparisons between itself and other cities, on a comparable basis that took commuting into account and hence recognised the economic extent of the city, which in Europe, generally speaking, did not coincide with its political or administrative boundaries. Working with geographers from the LSE, and liaising increasingly with European statisticians, we started working towards a comparison standard.

Measuring and Comparing World Cities studies the economic performance of a shortlist of 27 cities, as estimated by seven sources. The report finds that estimates of even the most basic indicators, such as the level and growth of city productivity, diverge so much between the providers of estimates, that no single estimate of any indicator of city performance can be relied on. It explains why. The findings of this paper led GLA Economics to the conclusion that a world standard for comparing cities was required, leading to its work in defining a Functional Urban Region (FUR) for London, and to joint work with the Greater European Metropolitan Areas Comparative Analysis (GEMACA) project, with Eurostat’s Urban Audit, and with the territorial working group of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to attempt to define a world standard.

The lack of such a world standard led GLA Economics to produce the benchmark dataset reproduced in this paper. This specifies output, employment and productivity for 27 cities, derived from standardised geographical definitions and harmonised data. The dataset serves as a reference for the GLA group and is used to compare and assess data commissioned from other private and official sources.

This working paper outlines a procedure to extend this dataset to a wider range of cities and indicators. It also specified a framework for the GLA group to use when commissioning further data on cities.

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