Metropolitan Productivity

2006-05-25

The key measure of the wealth-producing capacity of any society is productivity, i.e., the amount of goods and services produced per person. As I've previously noted, America is far and away the most productive large nation in the world. Honoring the insights of Jane Jacobs into the importance of cities to the wealth of nations, we can go farther (at least in America) by looking at metropolitan productivity. Here we divide gross metropolitan product (GMP) by metropolitan population to derive per capita metropolitan production for the 26 cities in America with over 2 million inhabitants, shown here in order of productivity:

  1. Washington -- $53,076 per capita (~$276 billion / ~5.2 million people)
  2. Boston -- $52,954 per capita (~$233 billion / ~4.4 million people)
  3. San Francisco -- $50,982 per capita (~$296 billion / ~5.8 million people)
  4. New York -- $50,802 per capita (~$950 billion / ~18.7 million people)
  5. Minneapolis -- $47,097 per capita (~$146 billion / ~3.1 million people)
  6. Denver -- $46,957 per capita (~$108 billion / ~2.3 million people)
  7. San Diego -- $46,897 per capita (~$136 billion / ~2.9 million people)
  8. Seattle -- $46,875 per capita (~$150 billion / ~3.2 million people)
  9. Dallas -- $44,912 per capita (~$256 billion / ~5.7 million people)
  10. Philadelphia -- $43,620 per capita (~$253 billion / ~5.8 million people)
  11. Baltimore -- $43,078 per capita (~$112 billion / ~2.6 million people)
  12. Sacramento -- $43,000 per capita (~$86 billion / ~2.0 million people)
  13. Chicago -- $42,150 per capita (~$392 billion / ~9.3 million people)
  14. Atlanta -- $42,128 per capita (~$198 billion / ~4.7 million people)
  15. Los Angeles -- $42,096 per capita (~$703 billion / ~16.7 million people)
  16. Phoenix -- $41,471 per capita (~$141 billion / ~3.4 million people)
  17. Houston -- $41,153 per capita (~$214 billion / ~5.2 million people)
  18. Cleveland -- $40,000 per capita (~$84 billion / ~2.1 million people)
  19. Detroit -- $39,111 per capita (~$176 billion / ~4.5 million people)
  20. Portland -- $39,000 per capita (~$78 billion / ~2.0 million people)
  21. Cincinatti -- $39,000 per capita (~$78 billion / ~2.0 million people)
  22. Pittsburgh -- $38,750 per capita (~$93 billion / ~2.4 million people)
  23. Tampa -- $38,462 per capita (~$100 billion / ~2.6 million people)
  24. St. Louis -- $37,777 per capita (~$102 billion / ~2.7 million people)
  25. Kansas City -- $37,000 per capita (~$74 billion / ~2.0 million people)
  26. Miami -- $34,074 per capita (~$184 billion / ~5.4 million people)

Naturally I have my doubts about any statistics showing the Washington, D.C. area to be the most productive in the country, but the other cities are pretty interesting. If I had the time I'd investigate this more fully, but there's probably a Master's thesis in here and economic geography is not what I get paid to do.

Note also that these are fairly rough estimates. I used 2004 numbers for gross metropolitan product as published by the U.S. Council of Mayors and the latest estimates for population as shown in my previous post. Also note that (as before) I combined some metropolitan areas to conform to what I consider sensible economic geography (Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario is added to Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara is added to San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, etc.). But I didn't do the thorough research necessary to combine them all (e.g., in my area I didn't add Boulder's GMP to Denver's, which by the way would have put Denver's productivity at $53,045 per capita) so I would take all these numbers with a grain of salt.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal