GaWC Project 3

GaWC logo
  Gateways into GaWC

London and New York in the World City Hierarchy: A Relational Study

Funded by Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (Loughborough University) Research Grant (1997-1998)

Grant Holder: J.V. Beaverstock

Research Associate: H. Lorimer


In the last decade and a half the 'world city hypothesis', and the related concept of 'global city', have provided an exciting alternative framework for understanding contemporary global change (see: Beaverstock, 1994; Knox and Taylor, 1995). This study investigates two of the most important of these world cities, London and New York, in terms of their relationship to each other and other world cities. In particular, by proposing 'a relational study' we aim to make a general theoretical point about the poverty of world city studies in dealing with the international urban hierarchy in addition to increasing our knowledge of the relationships that exist between London and New York as a world cities.

The proposed research will benefit the University and SSH in four main ways:

(1) Combined with my current ESRC grant which investigates London's scope as a world city, it will act as a pump-prime for future research proposals to the ESRC, emphasising the Thematic Priority of Globalisation, with reference to regions and emerging markets;

 (2) It will provide at least two publications in international refereed journals, plus conference papers at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference, in January 1998.

 (3) It will establish a major data source to be included in the Global Observatory.

 (4) It will extend SSH's research portfolio on globalisation.

 A paradox of world city research: the relative neglect of relations: There is a curious paradox in the literature on world cities: whereas the essence of world cities is their relations one to another, researchers have generally not focused on this aspect of their being (e.g. Friedmann, 1986, 1995; Sassen, 1991). A key problem for comparing London and New York that they operate in very different political contexts. London competes in Europe with other world cities, some of which are national capitals (e.g. Paris) and others financial centres (e.g. Frankfurt), in a way that New York does not: its rival cities are within the same polity (e.g. Los Angeles and Chicago). On most indicators London is the most important city in Europe but in relational terms how is it connected to other European cities in a way that New York is in North Amerca? We simply do not know the answer.

Exploring sources of relational data: There is a simple explanation for the prodominance of attribute over relational data in world city studies: the difficulty in obtaining the latter. Most studies focus upon attribute data because of its general ease of collection (see Short et al, 1996). Two different types of relational data can be found in the literature, however: flows between cities and organisational linkages between cities (Taylor, 1997). Here it is proposed to experiment with data collection that generates general measures of city hierarchical relations from easily accessible material relatively quickly. The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal have become established as the 'daily' paper for the international financial community while retaining their local bases. Geographical content analysis will explore the use of this two specialised international financial daily newspaper to compare and contrast the geographical scopes of London and New York as a world city.

Intellectual aims: (i) to aid in the reorientation of world city studies through a simple illustration of the necessity and benefits of a relational approach; (ii) to develop a means for creating data for directly comparing the geographical relations of world cities; (iii) to compare the geographical scopes of London and New York at the apex of the world city hierarchy.

Practical objectives: (i) to compile a directory of stories in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal; (ii) to map the geographical distribution of places in which events deemed newsworthy to the editors of the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal - surrogate measures of the external scope of London and New York as a world cities; (iii) to calculate and map the relative frequencies of place mentions between the two sources - providing a surrogate index for exploring London and New York's locations within the world city hierarchy.

Methodology: Daily, all stories/features in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal will be surveyed (from the Internet) over a period of five weeks recording all references to places. In identifying references to places two rules of inclusion/ exclusion will be adopted: only places represented by nouns will be counted i.e. adjectival references such as 'Japanese businessmen' will not be deemed place references; and multiple place counts within the same story will be included. This can lead to over-representation of a place from one major story but this will not be a serious problem given the total place mentions. It is more important to give proper weight to stories in terms of their length.

Work plan: Executing the task that is set will primarily be the responsibility of a full-time Research Assistant over a period of ten weeks. The work will be divided into two tasks: (i) data collection (five weeks); and (ii) data organisation, mapping and writing up the findings (five weeks). Theoretical and empircal writings will continue throughout the project.

Staff: This project is associated with Loughborough University's Global Observatory, of which the applicant is a Board Member overseeing the world city section. The Research Assistant will have to be appointed through the appropriate channels.


Beaverstock J V (1994) 'Re-thinking skilled international labour migration: World cities and banking organisations' Geoforum 25, 3, 323-338

Friedmann J (1986) 'The world city hypothesis' Development and Change, 17, 69-83

Knox P L and Taylor, P J (eds) (1995) World Cities in a World-System (CUP, Cambridge)

Sassen S (1991) Global Cities (Princeton University Press, Princeton)

Short J R et al (1996) 'The dirty little secret of world cities research: Data problems in comparative analysis' International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 20, 697-717

Taylor P J (1997) 'Hierarchical tendencies amongst world cities' Cities (forthcoming)

For results of this project, see GaWC Research Bulletin 2.