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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Do You Live in a Global City?

In "honor" of the fact that more than half of the world's population now lives in urban areas, Foreign Policy has linked up with management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs to create a ranking of what they call global cities. The concept of global cities was first laid out by Saskia Sassen of Columbia University:

Foreign Policy: What distinguishes a global city?
Saskia Sassen: A global city makes new norms. And two requirements for that happening are complexity and diversity. Quite often, in countries around the world, it's the most global city, especially New York, where new national and international norms are made.
FP: Is a global city always a megacity, and vice versa?
SS: I'm so glad you asked. Most global cities are really not megacities. Some are, but the question of size is a tricky one. Size is important for a global city because you need enormous diversity in very specialized sectors, a whole range of them. Some of the leading global cities are very large, like Tokyo or Shanghai. On the other hand, you have cities that are simply very large, like Mumbai or Sao Paulo. I don't think Lagos is a global city; it's just a huge city. You have a lot of very large cities that are not necessarily global cities. 
Despite her comment about Lagos not being a global city, the Foreign Policy list nonetheless ranks it as #59--oops.
Sassen goes on to describe the transformation of Miami from "a dreadful little spot" (her term) before the 1990s to a major global city--albeit as much a part of Latin America as of North America. Miami is now #33 on the Foreign Policy list of global cities, which is led by New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. Admittedly, there are not any surprises on that top part of the list.

1 comment:

  1. In my eyes, the concept of global cities is a very interesting and the idea of building a ranking order of the most global cities is indeed appealing. Most of us want to know how “global” certain cities are and especially how important the city is one lives in.

    On the other hand, building rank orders with different variables is always a rather subjective choice. By choosing the variables for a global city (in the case of The Global City Index by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs these are business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement) and weighting them in a special manner, the authors have the possibility to change the ranking order. If the authors for example want to push a tourist city, it might help to count the variable cultural experience more and devaluate the variable political engagement. Certain cities with political organizations would have a lower place in the ranking order while more tourist orientated cities would climb up the ranking order.

    To sum up, I think that the global city approach is interesting and helps us to distinguish cities from others. In addition, it shows the development of certain cities, like Sassen points out Miami. Because of the complexity of variables and their weighting, I think we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on the ranking order.