Edward Glaeser: Two great cities – but London has the edge now over New York

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Edward Glaeser: Two great cities - but London has the edge now over New York
Iconic landmarks: times Square in New York and London’s Houses of Parliament and the London Eye

New York and London are the Western world’s battling urban colossi, locked in a friendly competition for global supremacy that has persisted for 150 years. For most of the decades since 1914’s Guns of August pounded British finances, New York appeared to have the upper hand. Yet since the Great Recession London has surged while New York has been far more static. Why does the older city now appear to have the edge?

First of all let’s take a look at the record of both cities when it comes to jobs. Employment in London is rising, while New York employment is standing still. Between 2001 and 2012 the number of people in work in London rose by a robust 17 per cent while New York’s jobs figure rose by less than three per cent. Both cities have shown great resilience but London’s post-2007 expansion has been far more dramatic.

New York is still the more productive city. However, London’s per capita output levels dwarf those of the rest of the UK. London is also catching up quickly. At the start of the millennium per capita output was more than 20 per cent higher in New York than in London.

Since New York’s emergence as an urban giant in the early 19th century, there have been three phases in the two-city rivalry. In the years before the First World War New York could only gawk and marvel at the more sophisticated London, which sat supreme as the capital of global finance and a great empire. ….