Blog | 23 May 2024

The top 10 cities in the world, as ranked by Oxford Economics’ new Global Cities Index

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

City roof top, a representation of top cities captured by Global Cities Index

Cities are the heart of human civilisation, where innovation, diversity and progress converge. However, the intricacies of urban dynamics often cloud our understanding of what truly defines the success of a city.

Oxford Economics’ new Global Cities Index is designed to address this challenge. Covering the 1,000 largest cities in the world, our Global Cities Index evaluates urban economies on a wide range of metrics covering five broad categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment and Governance, providing a nuanced understanding of each city’s strengths and weaknesses.

The five categories of the Global Cities Index

Oxford Economics' Global Cities Index categories
Source: Oxford Economics

The top 10 cities of 2024

The top cities in the Global Cities Index possess strong scores in all five categories. Not only do they provide important economic contributions to the global economy, they are hubs for education and business innovation, and invest in the infrastructure necessary to maintain a high quality of life. They also prioritise policies that focus on the environment and good governance.

Leading the rankings in 2024 is New York, followed by London. Both cities perform best in the Economics and Human Capital categories, unsurprising given their roles as global hubs for finance, business, and education. New York has the largest metro economy in the world, and London has the fourth largest. Similarly, both cities have among the most universities and corporate headquarter offices, again emphasising their global relevance in the worlds of business and education. As highlighted by their scores, the two powerhouses on either side of the Atlantic are very much neck and neck.

The remainder of the top five—San Jose, Tokyo, and Paris—aren’t often regarded as particularly alike, but they share characteristics that drive their success in the index. All three have top Economics scores, albeit for varying reasons. San Jose’s Economics score is boosted by the city having the highest levels of GDP per capita in the world, by far. Tokyo has much lower levels of GDP in per person terms, but in absolute terms, its economy is the second largest in the world. Paris splits the difference, with a higher total GDP than San Jose, and a higher GDP per capita than Tokyo.

They also perform well in the Human Capital category. For instance, Tokyo and Paris are both home to a multitude of universities and corporate headquarters. And as the home of Silicon Valley, San Jose also hosts many headquarters, but its strength in this category comes from having one of the largest shares of foreign-born residents in the world. Top Quality of Life scores also propel San Jose and Paris up the rankings, with Paris in particular benefitting from a plethora of world-renowned cultural sites.

Rounding out the top 10 are Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Melbourne, and Zurich. For the three US cities, their scores are primarily driven by their outsized economic influence. All three have healthy tech sectors that drive GDP growth, although Seattle and Los Angeles also receive significant contributions from their aerospace manufacturing industries.

While Melbourne and Zurich have high Economics scores in a global context, they trail the others in the top 10 in this category. Instead, their scores are driven by strong results in the other categories. Melbourne’s ranking comes in part from its top Environment score. The city benefits from good air quality, low carbon emissions intensity, and a less volatile climate. Zurich’s performance, on the other hand, is thanks to the city having the best Quality of Life score of any city in the overall top 10. Incomes and life expectancy are high, and the city’s location—nestled between the Alps and Lake Zurich—offers a wide range of recreational activities. Both Melbourne and Zurich also have the best Governance scores of the overall top 10, driven by the strong institutions and political stability of Australia and Switzerland.

The varying paths to the top 10

The diversity in characteristics of the top cities in our 2024 Global Cities Index emphasises that there is no single formula to become a leading city globally. The largest city, New York, has a population of over 20 million, while the smallest, Zurich, only has 1.6 million. The top 10 cities are located on four continents. Some are finance or tech hubs, others global leaders in education. The disparate paths these cities all take to achieve their top 10 status underscores the importance of being able to compare urban areas around the world on a range of different dimensions.

In 2023, the 1,000 largest cities in the world accounted for 60% of global GDP and over 30% of the world’s population. As the importance of cities will only continue to grow, tools like the Global Cities Index will be essential in making strategic decisions.

About the Global Cities Index

The Oxford Economics Global Cities Index ranks the largest 1,000 cities in the world based on five categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment and Governance. Underpinned by Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Service, the index provides a consistent framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of urban economies across a total of 27 indicators. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most detailed cities index in the industry. To download the full report, please visit https://www.oxfordeconomics.com/global-cities-index/.

Author

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

+44 (0) 20 3910 8018

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

London, United Kingdom

Anthony Bernard-Sasges is a senior economist. He primarily produces research and forecasts for cities in Canada and the Middle East & North Africa. Anthony holds a master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in International Political Economics from Georgetown University.

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