Global city

New York City is considered a global city (Times Square pictured)

A global city, also called a power city, world city, alpha city or world center, is a city which is a primary node in the global economic network. The concept comes from geography and urban studies, and the idea that globalization is created and furthered in strategic geographic locales according to a hierarchy of importance to the operation of the global system of finance and trade.

The most complex node is the "global city", with links binding it to other cities having a direct and tangible effect on global socio-economic affairs.[1] The term "megacity" entered common use in the late 19th or early 20th centuries; one of the earliest documented uses of the term was by the University of Texas in 1904.[2] The term "global city", rather than "megacity", was popularized by sociologist Saskia Sassen in her 1991 work, The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo.[3] "World city", meaning a city heavily involved in global trade, appeared in the May 1886 description of Liverpool, by The Illustrated London News.[4] Patrick Geddes later used the term "world city" in 1915.[5] More recently, the term has focused on a city's financial power and high-technology infrastructure, with other factors becoming less relevant.[6][7]


Competing groups have developed multiple alternative methods to classify and rank world cities and to distinguish them from non-world cities.[5] Although there is a consensus on the leading world cities,[8] the chosen criteria affect which other cities are included.[5] Selection criteria may be based on a yardstick value (e.g., if the producer-service sector is the largest sector then city X is a world city)[5] or on an imminent determination (if the producer-service sector of city X is greater than the combined producer-service sectors of N other cities then city X is a world city.)[5]

Cities can fall from ranking, as in the case of cities that have become less cosmopolitan and less internationally renowned in the current era.


Although criteria are variable and fluid, typical characteristics of world cities are:[9]

  • A variety of international financial services,[10] notably in finance, insurance, real estate, banking, accountancy, and marketing
  • Headquarters of several multinational corporations
  • The existence of financial headquarters, a stock exchange, and other major financial institutions
  • Domination of the trade and economy of a large surrounding area
  • Major manufacturing centres with port and container facilities
  • Considerable decision-making power on a daily basis and at a global level
  • Centres of new ideas and innovation in business, economics, culture, and politics
  • Centres of media and communications for global networks
  • Dominance of the national region with great international significance
  • High percentage of residents employed in the services sector and information sector
  • High-quality educational institutions, including renowned universities, international student attendance,[11] and research facilities
  • Multi-functional infrastructure offering some of the best legal, medical, and entertainment facilities in the country
  • High diversity in language, culture, religion, and ideologies


Global city rankings are numerous, with one study suggesting as many as 300.[12] Most ranked cities are in North America and Europe. New York, London, Tokyo, and Paris, notably four of the most significant metropolises,[13][14] have been ranked in top four positions in Global Cities Index and Global Power City Index since both indices' inception in 2008, with New York and London exclusively in top two positions.

GaWC study

A map showing the distribution of GaWC-ranked world cities (2010 data)

Jon Beaverstock, Richard G. Smith, and Peter J. Taylor established the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC). A list of world cities in the GaWC Research Bulletin 5 is ranked by their connectivity through four "advanced producer services": accountancy, advertising, banking/finance, and law.[8] The GaWC inventory identifies three levels of global cities and several sub-ranks,[15] although the authors caution that "concern for city rankings operates against the spirit of the GaWC project"[16] (emphasis in original).

The 2004 rankings added several new indicators while continuing to rank city-economics more heavily than political and cultural factors. The 2008 version of the list, similar to the 1998 version, is sorted into categories of Alpha world cities (with four sub-categories), Beta world cities (three sub-categories), Gamma world cities (three sub-categories), and cities with High sufficiency and Sufficiency presence. The cities in the top two classifications in the 2020 edition are as follows:[17]

Alpha ++

Alpha +

Global City Competitiveness Index

In 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit (The Economist Group) ranked the competitiveness of global cities according to their demonstrated ability to attract capital, businesses, talent, and visitors.[18]

Global Cities Index

In 2008, the American journal Foreign Policy, working with the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, published a ranking of global cities, based on consultation with Saskia Sassen, Witold Rybczynski, and others.[19] Foreign Policy noted that "the world's biggest, most interconnected cities help set global agendas, weather transnational dangers, and serve as the hubs of global integration. They are the engines of growth for their countries and the gateways to the resources of their regions."[20] The ranking is based on 27 metrics across five dimensions—business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement—and was updated in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.[21] Since 2015, it has been published with a separate index, the Global Cities Outlook, which is a projection of a city's potential based on rate of change in 13 indicators across four dimensions: personal well-being, economics, innovation, and governance. The top ranked cities in 2020 were:[22]

Global Cities Initiative

A study by Brookings Institution conducted in 2016 introduced its own typology, sorting global cities into seven categories: Global Giants, Asian Anchors, Emerging Gateways, Factory China, Knowledge Capitals, American Middleweights, and International Middleweights [23]

The Global Giants classification includes wealthy, extremely large metropolitan areas that are the largest cities in developed nations. They are hubs for financial markets and major corporations, and serve as key nodes in global flows of capital and of talent.

Global City Lab

An analysis report compiled by the Global City Lab of the Global Top 500 Cities was released in New York on 27 December 2019.[24]

The top 10 of the "2020 Global Top 500 Cities" by brand value were as follows:[25]

Global Economic Power Index

In 2015, the second Global Economic Power Index, a meta list compiled by Richard Florida, was published by The Atlantic (distinct from a namesake list[26] published by the Martin Prosperity Institute), with city composite rank based on five other lists.[26][27]

Global Power City Index

The Tokyo-based Institute for Urban Strategies at The Mori Memorial Foundation, issued a comprehensive study of global cities in 2019. They are ranked in six categories: economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment, and accessibility, with 70 individual indicators among them. The top ten world cities are also ranked by subjective categories, including manager, researcher, artist, visitor and resident.[28]

The top 10 cities in the 2020 Global Power City Index were:[29]

Schroders Global Cities Index

The British asset management company Schroders ranked the competitiveness of global cities. The top 10 cities for the 2021 edition are as follows:[30]

The Wealth Report

"The Wealth Report" (a global perspective on prime property and wealth) is made by the London-based estate agent Knight Frank LLP and the Citi Private Bank. The report includes a "Global Cities Survey", evaluating which cities are considered the most important to the world's HNWIs (high-net-worth individuals, having over $25 million of investable assets each). For the Global Cities Survey, Citi Private Bank's wealth advisors, and Knight Frank's luxury property specialists were asked to name the cities that they considered the most important to HNWIs, in regard to "economic activity", "political power", "knowledge and influence", and "quality of life".[31][32]

Most important cities to UHNWIs in 2015:

Most important cities to UHNWIs in 2025:

The World's Most Talked About Cities

A study by ING Media, a London-based built environment communications firm, has ranked 250 global cities by total online mentions across social media and online news for 2019. It found that a fifth of digital mentions were for Tokyo, New York City, London, and Paris, identifying these as the world's super brands.[33][34] The Top 10 in the 2019 edition were:[35]

The World's Best Cities

Real estate advisor Resonance Consultancy evaluates each city across the six dimensions: place ("perceived quality of a city’s natural and built environment"), product ("key institutions, attractions and infrastructure"), programming ("arts, culture, entertainment and culinary scene"), people ("immigration rate and diversity"), prosperity ("employment and corporate head offices"), and promotion ("stories, references and recommendations shared online").[36][37][38]

In 2021, the top 10 was:[39]

Summary of indices





A.T. Kearney


Global City Lab


ING Most Talked




Knight Frank






United Kingdom London112332111
United States New York221121152
Japan Tokyo93421645
France Paris8434421343
Singapore Singapore45961838117
United States Los Angeles1112771596149
Hong Kong Hong Kong3961013135642
China Beijing6155131917112526
United States Chicago19258191420612
Canada Toronto1218198223017713
South Korea Seoul268171791524
United States San Francisco38241312287214
China Shanghai51012112310142873
Australia Sydney101111536631325
Germany Berlin58715917481218
Russia Moscow2230202111624
United States Boston442721292616335
United Arab Emirates Dubai71727496726
Netherlands Amsterdam146231830931017
Germany Munich412457892028
Turkey Istanbul30343423124121
Spain Madrid2113165125162610
Spain Barcelona6221268668
China Shenzhen4665419
United States Washington, D.C.5136108285202120
Japan Osaka10133102952
Australia Melbourne2914581231037
United States Seattle926424940
Italy Rome55713711
United States San Jose1421545864

See also


  1. ^ Sassen, Saskia - The global city: strategic site/new frontier Archived 18 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Hemisfile: perspectives on political and economic trends in the Americas". 5–8. Institute of the Americas. 1904: 12. Retrieved 16 July 2015. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Sassen, Saskia - The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Archived 16 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine (1991) - Princeton University Press.ISBN 0-691-07063-6
  4. ^ "UK History". 18 December 2009. Archived from the original on 23 June 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Doel, M. & Hubbard, P., (2002), "Taking World Cities Literally: Marketing the City in a Global Space of flows", City, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 351–68. Subscription required
  6. ^ "Asian Cities Pay Hidden Price for Global Status". The Diplomat. 15 February 2015. Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  7. ^ "The World's Most Influential Cities". Forbes. 14 August 2014. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b GaWC Research Bulletin 5 Archived 8 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, GaWC, Loughborough University, 28 July 1999
  9. ^ Pashley, Rosemary. "HSC Geography". Pascal Press, 2000, p.164
  10. ^ J.V. Beaverstock, World City Networks 'From Below' Archived 8 March 2006 at the Wayback Machine, GaWC, Loughborough University, 29 September 2010
  11. ^ K. O'Connor, International Students and Global Cities Archived 5 February 2006 at the Wayback Machine, GaWC, Loughborough University, 17 February 2005
  12. ^ "Decoding City Performance". Archived from the original on 16 October 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Struggling Giants". University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  14. ^ Abrahamson, Mark (2004). Global cities (PDF) (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0195142044. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  15. ^ "The World According to GaWC Archived 30 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine". GaWC. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  16. ^ Taylor, P.J. "Measuring the World City Network: New Results and Developments". Archived from the original on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  17. ^ a b "GaWC - Globalization and World Cities".
  18. ^ "Benchmarking global city competitiveness" (PDF). Economist Intelligence Unit. Economist Intelligence Unit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2014.
  19. ^ "2012 Global Cities Index and Emerging Cities Outlook". Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  20. ^ The main parameters are "Business activity" (30%), "Human capital" (30%), "Information exchange" (15%), "Cultural experience" (15%) and "Political engagement" (10%)."The 2008 Global Cities Index". Foreign Policy (November/December 2008). 21 October 2008. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
  21. ^ "Read @ATKearney: Una Cuestión de Talento: Cómo el Capital Humano Determinará los Próximos Líderes Mundiales". Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Read @Kearney: 2020 Global Cities Index: New priorities for a new world".
  23. ^ "Redefining Global Cities". Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
  24. ^ "2019 Global Top 500 Cities". Global City Lab. Archived from the original on 21 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  25. ^ a b "Global City Lab".
  26. ^ a b Richard Florida (3 March 2015). "Sorry, London: New York Is the World's Most Economically Powerful City". The Atlantic Monthly Group. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2015. Our new ranking puts the Big Apple firmly on top.
  27. ^ "The Top 10 most powerful cities in the world". Yahoo! India Finance. 11 May 2012. Archived from the original on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  28. ^ "Global Power City Index 2018". Tokyo, Japan: Institute for Urban Strategies at The Mori Memorial Foundation. 18 October 2018. Archived from the original on 3 March 2019. Retrieved 16 March 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ a b "Global Power City Index 2020". The Mori Memorial Foundation.
  30. ^ a b Schroders Global Cities Index - Schroders, 2021
  31. ^ "The Wealth Report 2015". Knight Frank LLP. Archived from the original on 18 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  32. ^ "Global Cities Survey" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015.
  33. ^ Laker, Benjamin. "The World's Most Talked About City Is Tokyo. But Why Not New York City, London, Or Paris?". Forbes. Archived from the original on 13 February 2020. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  34. ^ Intelligence, fDi. "Tokyo world's most talked about city online". Archived from the original on 1 February 2020. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  35. ^ a b "The World's Most Talked About Cities". ING Media - Property PR | Architecture PR | Strategic communications for the BUILT ENVIRONMENT. Archived from the original on 23 December 2019. Retrieved 23 December 2019.
  36. ^ "About Us". Best Cities.
  37. ^ The world’s best cities for 2021 have been revealed, Time Out
  38. ^ New report reveals the best cities in the world for 2021, Lonely Planet
  39. ^ a b "The World's Best Cities". Best Cities.
  40. ^ "Global Urban Competitiveness Report (2019-2020)" (PDF).
  41. ^ "City Wealth Index 2020: where do the wealthy want to live?". Knight Frank. Archived from the original on 10 March 2021.

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