Cities drive the U.S. economy. Here’s proof, in one map

March 6, 2014

The U.S. gross domestic product is expanding almost entirely due to growth in the country’s largest cities, which make up a staggering proportion of the national economy. The combined annual gross product of the country’s 10 largest metropolitan areas is greater than the combined GDP of 36 states, according to a November report by IHS Global Insight prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Here’s what the U.S. economy looks like, broken down into four quadrants (The top-producing areas are marked in orange, while the second quadrant is yellow):


(Courtesy of Alexandr Trubetskoy/ispol.com)

If the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area were its own country, it would produce more GDP than Spain, Mexico and South Korea. The New York-New Jersey metro area produces more on its own — about $1.3 trillion in 2012 — than all but two U.S. states, California and Texas. The Los Angeles metropolitan area produced about $765 billion in gross product, more than 46 of the states.

Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 36 are metropolitan areas in the United States, the report found.

Many mid-level metro areas are growing at a faster clip than the United States as a whole. Midland and Odessa, Tex., grew at an estimated annual rate of 7.3 percent and 6.4 percent respectively in 2013, far faster than the estimated 1.7 percent U.S. GDP growth. Ninety metropolitan areas, from Pascagoula, Miss., and Fargo, N.D., to Hickory, N.C., and Battle Creek, Mich., grew faster than the nation as a whole last year.

In 2012, the report found 92 percent of the jobs added and 89 percent of the GDP growth in the United States happened in metropolitan areas.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.
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