GaWC Project 16

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Chicago in the World City Network

Project currently in abeyance

Background; past GaWC findings

  1. Chicago is one of ten alpha cities in our roster of 55 world cities: the others are London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Los Angeles and Milan (Beaverstock et al.1999a).
  2. Note the nearly even distribution of alpha cities between northern America, western Europe and Pacific Asia - in all our work these three regions appear as the key 'globalization arenas' (Beaverstock et al., 1999b, 2000a).
  3. Among the ten alpha cities, Chicago has the lowest level of corporate relations with other alpha cities (the next to lowest is Los Angeles) (Beaverstock et al. 2000b).
  4. This can be interpreted as follows: although all serious global producer service providers require presence in all three globalization arenas, the three arenas are treated differently. For those firms outside the USA, the latter is seen as a large but already well-served market hence they are less likely to build up a northern American network of offices. The common alternative is to adopt a 'foothold' approach using New York as their gateway to the market: one major office in New York suffices for their dealings with USA business (Beaverstock et al. 2000b).
  5. Note that this interpretation is counter to Drennan’s (1992) argument for four major US gateway cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco) but is not counter to his data (Table 11, p. 229).
  6. The GaWC research perspective is that, unlike the more politically-fragmented other globalization arenas where offices are needed for access to several important national markets, New York imposes a "shadow effect" on all other world cities in the USA. Chicago and Los Angeles, despite their alpha status, are victims of this process.
  7. There are some indications in our work that Los Angeles could develop as a gateway between USA and Pacific Asia in the way that Miami operates as the gateway between Latin America and the USA (Latin America is a fourth, but very poor relation as, a globalization arena).
  8. If these processes continue unchecked, Chicago will remain a major world city in the northern American arena but with relatively minor global links behind the gateway shadow of New York, and possible the minor shadows of Los Angeles and Miami also.

GaWC additions to the project on the prospects of Chicago as a world city.

  1. Our niche is relations between world cities - we would argue that although much research is being done on Chicago itself for this project, a full understanding requires looking outside the city to its actual and potential relations with other cities. In other words, the success of Chicago as a world city depends to a large degree on decisions in the private sector on global locational strategy (Taylor, 2001).
  2. Using the GaWC100 data we will focus on the global connectivity of Chicago. Peer-city comparisons will be made with (a) other rival US cities; and (b) with non-US world cities of a similar status to Chicago. (Currently the latter means the ‘alpha cities’ scoring the same as Chicago in Beaverstock et al. (1999a) – Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Milan, Singapore – but this work is being revised in project 10. We will build upon the new research here.)
  3. Global connectivity of the city will be measured as ‘total network interlock linkage’ as defined in Taylor (2001, equations 6 and 8) using all 100 firms. A Chicago-centric diagram, similar to that for London in project 3 (see Beaverstock et al., 2000b, Figure 1) will be produced. Peer-city comparisons will indicate whether Chicago is suffering from a severe shadow effect as previously hypothesized.
  4. Sector-specific measures of global connectivity will also be computed for accountancy, advertising, banking/finance, insurance, law, and management consultancy. Comparisons with the other cities will show where Chicago is strong in relation to its rivals and where it is relatively weak.
  5. Finally, there are other network analyses (principal components analysis, multidimensional scaling) from project 10 involving all cities in that study. Where the results show Chicago in an interesting light with respect to this research, these findings will be integrated into this study.


Beaverstock, J V, Smith, R G and Taylor, P J (1999a) ‘A roster of world cities’, Cities, 16, 445-58

Beaverstock, J V, Smith, R G and Taylor, P J (1999b) ‘The long arm of the law: London’s law firms in a globalizing world-economy’, Environment and Planning A, 31, 187-92

Beaverstock, J V, Smith, R G and Taylor, P J (2000a) ‘Geographies of globalization: United States law firms in world cities’, Urban Geography, 21, 95-120

Beaverstock, J V, Smith, R G and Taylor, P J (2000b) ‘World-city network: a new metageography?’. Annals, Association of American Geographers, 90, 123-34

Drennan, M P (1992) ‘Gateway cities: the metropolitan sources of US producer service exports’, Urban Studies, 29, 217-35

Taylor, P J (2001) ‘Specification of the world city network’, Geographical Analysis (in press)