D.C. is a bigger financial powerhouse than Shanghai


Photo via Flickr user Intiaz Rahim, used under a Creative Commons license

For the first time, New York is the top dog among the world's financial centers. This is according to the newest version of the Global Financial Centres Index, which aims to "examine the major financial centres globally in terms of competitiveness." The index pulls from external data sources — the U.N., the World Bank, etc. — as well as the responses to a survey of financial industry professionals.

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New York knocked London out of the top spot this spring, the first time this has happened since the index started in 2007. But aside from that, the top four cities have remained remarkably stable — London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore have always held the top four slots.

Other U.S. cities have seen their financial clout rise in recent years. Boston is now eighth on the list, up from 14th in 2010. San Francisco is 10th, and D.C. is now 13th. Chicago is the one U.S. city in the top 20 that has seen its financial influence wane in recent years, down to 15th place from a high of sixth in 2010.

It's worth noting that the index uses a fairly broad definition of "competitiveness." It places a high level of importance on the availability of skilled workers, as well as a things like a favorable regulatory environment. But it also factors in a bunch of bread-and-butter economic indicators, like GDP, tax rates, infrastructure, government debt and the like. It even draws on The Economist's Big Mac Index.

Overall, the rankings are a useful reminder of the outsized role that the U.S. financial sector plays in the domestic and global economies. Who would have guessed that Boston is now seen as more of a financial powerhouse than Geneva? Or that in the world of finance, D.C. is now a bigger player than Toronto?

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.
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