Ranked: The Megaregions Driving the Global Economy
If you’ve ever flown cross-country in a window seat, chances are, the bright lights at night have caught your eye. From above, the world tells its own story—as concentrated pockets of bright light keep the world’s economy thriving.
Today’s visualization relies on data compiled by CityLab researchers to identify the world’s largest megaregions. The team defines megaregions as:
- Areas of continuous light, based on the latest night satellite imagery
- Capturing metro areas or networks of metro areas, with a combined population of 5 million or higher
- Generating economic output (GDP) of over $300 billion, on a PPP basis
It’s worth pointing out that each megaregion may not be connected by specific trade relationships. Rather, satellite data highlights the proximity between these rough but useful regional estimates contributing to the global economy—and supercities are at the heart of it.
From Megalopolis to Megaregion
Throughout history, academics have described vast, interlinked urban regions as a ‘megalopolis’, or ‘megapolis’. Economic geographer Jean Gottman popularized the Greek term, referring to the booming and unprecedented urbanization in Bos-Wash—the northeast stretch from Boston and New York down to Washington, D.C.:
This region has indeed a “personality” of its own […] Every city in this region spreads out far and wide around its original nucleus.
By looking at adjacent metropolitan areas rather than country-level data, it can help provide an entirely new perspective on the global distribution of economic activity.
Where in the world are the most powerful urban economic clusters today?
The Largest Megaregions Today
The world’s economy is a sum of its parts. Each megaregion contributes significantly to the global growth engine, but arguably, certain areas pull more weight than others.
|Megaregion||Cities||Region||Population||Economic Output (EO)||EO per Capita|
|1. Bos-Wash||New York, Washington, D.C., Boston||North America||47.6M||$3,650B||$76,681|
|2. Par-Am-Mun||Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich||Europe||43.5M||$2,505B||$57,586|
|3. Chi-Pitts||Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh||North America||32.9M||$2,130B||$64,742|
|4. Greater Tokyo||Tokyo||Asia||39.1M||$1,800B||$46,036|
|5. SoCal||Los Angeles, San Diego||North America||22M||$1,424B||$64,727|
|6. Seoul-San||Seoul, Busan||Asia||35.5M||$1,325B||$37,324|
|7. Texas Triangle||Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin||North America||18.4M||$1,227B||$66,685|
|8. Beijing||Beijing, Tianjin||Asia||37.4M||$1,226B||$32,781|
|9. Lon-Leed-Chester||London, Leeds, Manchester||Europe||22.6M||$1,177B||$52,080|
|10. Hong-Shen||Hong Kong, Shenzhen||Asia||19.5M||$1,043B||$53,487|
|11. NorCal||San Francisco, San Jose||North America||10.8M||$925B||$85,648|
|12. Shanghai||Shanghai, Hangzhou||Asia||24.2M||$892B||$36,860|
|14. São Paolo||São Paolo||South America||33.5M||$780B||$23,284|
|15. Char-Lanta||Charlotte, Atlanta||North America||10.5M||$656B||$62,476|
|16. Cascadia||Seattle, Portland||North America||8.8M||$627B||$71,250|
|17. Ista-Burs||Istanbul, Bursa||MENA||14.8M||$626B||$42,297|
|18. Vienna-Budapest||Vienna, Budapest||Europe||12.8M||$555B||$43,359|
|19. Mexico City||Mexico City||North America||24.5M||$524B||$21,388|
|20. Rome-Mil-Tur||Rome, Milan, Turin||Europe||13.8M||$513B||$37,174|
|21. Singa-Lumpur||Singapore, Kuala Lumpur||Asia||12.7M||$493B||$38,819|
|22. Cairo-Aviv||Cairo, Tel Aviv||MENA||19.8M||$472B||$23,838|
|23. So-Flo||Miami, Tampa||North America||9.1M||$470B||$51,648|
|24. Abu-Dubai||Abu Dhabi, Dubai||MENA||5M||$431B||$86,200|
|25. Osaka-Nagoya (tied)||Osaka, Nagoya||Asia||9.1M||$424B||$46,593|
|25. Tor-Buff-Chester (tied)||Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester||North America||8.5M||$424B||$49,882|
|27. Delhi-Lahore||New Delhi, Lahore||Asia||27.9M||$417B||$14,946|
|28. Barcelona-Lyon||Barcelona, Lyon||Europe||7M||$323B||$46,143|
|29. Shandong||Jinan, Zibo, Dongying||Asia||14.2M||$249B||$17,535|
Altogether, these powerhouses bring in over $28 trillion in economic output.
Unsurprisingly, Bos-Wash reigns supreme even today, with $3.6 trillion in economic output, over 13% of the total. The corridor hosts some of the highest-paying sectors: information technology, finance, and professional services.
The largest city in Brazil, São Paulo, is the only city in the Southern Hemisphere to make the list. The city was once heavily reliant on manufacturing and trade, but the $780 billion city economy is now embracing its role as a nascent financial hub.
On the other side of the world, the cluster of Asian megaregions combines for $8.7 trillion in total economic output. Of these, Greater Tokyo in Japan is the largest, while Shandong might be a name that fewer people are familiar with. Sandwiched between Beijing and Shanghai, the coastal province houses multiple high-tech industrial and export processing zones.
The data is even more interesting when broken down into economic output per capita—Abu-Dubai churns out an impressive $86,200 per person. Meanwhile, Delhi-Lahore is lowest on the per-capita list, at $14,946 per person across nearly 28 million people.
Where To Next?
This trend shows no sign of slowing down, as megacities are on the rise in the coming decade. Eventually, more Indian and African megaregions will make its way onto this list, led by cities like Lagos and Chennai.
Stay tuned to Visual Capitalist for a North America-specific outlook coming soon, and a deep dive into the biggest factors contributing to the growth of these megaregions.
World Cities Ranked by Average Annual Sunshine Hours
While we all see the same sky, some see it differently, depending on where they live. Today’s graphic ranks world cities by annual hours of sunshine.
World Cities Ranked by Average Annual Sunshine Hours
View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here
While we all see the same sky, we see it a bit differently depending on where we stand.
For those in the planet’s most extreme regions, the sun doesn’t follow the same pattern of seasons as it does in more temperate regions.
Today’s visualization comes from Sleepopolis and summarizes the top cities on each continent that receive the most and least annual sunshine hours.
Ranked: Cities with the Least and Most Sunshine Hours
While the graphic groups the top five cities from each continent, the tables below highlight the top 10 cities from around the world that boast the highest and lowest annual sunshine hours.
Top 10 Cities with the Most Annual Sunshine
|City||Country||Climate||# of Sunshine Hours|
|Calama||Chile||Arid, Marine West Coast, Tundra||3,926.2|
|Las Vegas||United States||Arid||3,825.3|
|El Paso||United States||Semiarid||3,762.5|
The sunniest city on Earth is Yuma, Arizona in the U.S. As the driest city in the U.S., Yuma receives less than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rainfall and endures roughly 100 days of 40°C (104°F) weather every year. Yuma lies between the Gila and Colorado rivers, in a lush region that produces almost 90% of leafy vegetables grown in the U.S.
Arizona boasts three of the top 10 sunniest cities in the world, including Phoenix in the fifth spot, which is the 5th most populous city in the U.S. and is known as “the Valley of the Sun”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Egypt also has three cities in the top 10 list, with Marsa Alam, Dakhla Oasis, and Kharga claiming the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th sunniest spots, respectively. Dakhla Oasis, or “inner oasis”, receives practically zero precipitation each year.
Top 10 Cities with the Least Annual Sunshine
|City||Country||Climate||# of Sunshine Hours|
|Totoró||Colombia||Marine West Coast||637.0|
|Tórshavn||Faroe Islands||Marine West Coast||840.0|
|Malabo||Equatorial Guinea||Tropical Wet and Dry||1,176.7|
|Buenaventura||Colombia||Tropical Wet and Dry, Humid Subtropical||1,178.0|
|Reykjavik||Iceland||Tundra, Marine West Coast||1,326.0|
|Bogotá||Colombia||Marine West Coast||1,328.0|
Although perceived as a sunny location, Colombia borders both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, exposing it to higher variety in weather patterns and precipitation. Colombia alone is home to three of the top 10 cities with the lowest hours of annual sunshine.
Ranking second-to-last in the number of sunshine hours, Torshavn lies between the Scottish coast and Iceland and receives roughly 37 days of sunshine every year; the average temperatures on this island barely reach above 5°C (41°F).
Our sun doesn’t shine at the same level of brightness all the time. NASA has observed that the sun goes through “solar cycles” that last roughly 11 years─brightening and dimming at relatively regular intervals and impacting how intensely we receive sunlight at any given time.
Sunshine Near the Poles
Humans typically need exposure to the sun to maintain healthy sleep habits, as our brain has been hardwired to follow natural waking and sleeping rhythms.
However, several cities experience no sun at all for several months at a time in what’s known as the “Polar Night”.
- Tromsø, Norway: winter darkness is enjoyed rather than endured, as it can last for over a month
- Svalbard, Norway: even indirect sunlight is absent, with no change in sunlight to help indicate a 24-hour day
- Dikson, Russia: receives no sunlight whatsoever in December
Wherever you live, people have been watching and tracking the movements of the sun with rapt attention for millennia, even when we couldn’t see it.
Mapped: The World’s Top 10 Cities in 2035
Cities are heavy hitters in the global economy. Where will the top 10 cities be in 2035—based on GDP, population, and annual growth?
Mapped: Where Will The Top 10 Cities Be in 2035?
Cities are the engines of the modern economy. Over half of the world now lives in urban areas, and urbanization continues to shape the trajectory of global growth in unprecedented ways.
However, the most important cities of today may be quite different than those leading the charge in the future. This week’s chart looks forward to 2035, using a report by Oxford Economics to forecast the top 10 cities by measures of economic size, population, and GDP growth rate.
Each map is categorized by one of these metrics—and depending on which one you look at, the leaders vary greatly.
Top 10 Cities by Projected GDP
The top 10 cities by gross domestic product (GDP) in 2035 will be fairly widespread. Three cities are expected to be in the U.S.—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Big Apple’s forecasted $2.5 trillion GDP likely stems from its strong banking and finance sectors.
|#1||New York||🇺🇸 United States||$2.5T|
|#3||Los Angeles||🇺🇸 United States||$1.5T|
|#4||London||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||$1.3T|
|#8||Chicago||🇺🇸 United States||$1.0T|
Four cities will be found in China, while London, Paris, and Tokyo are set to round out the last three. Interestingly, Tokyo is the #1 city today, with an estimated $1.6 trillion GDP in 2019.
Altogether, these top 10 cities will contribute an impressive $13.5 trillion in GDP by 2035. Clusters of such metropolitan areas are typically considered megaregions—which account for a large share of global economic activity.
Top 10 Cities by Future Population
Next, it’s clear that top cities by population will follow a distinct global distribution. By 2035, the most highly-populated cities will shift towards the East, with seven cities located in Asia.
|#1||Jakarta||🇮🇩 Indonesia||38 million|
|#2||Tokyo||🇯🇵 Japan||37.8 million|
|#3||Chongqing||🇨🇳 China||32.2 million|
|#4||Dhaka||🇧🇩 Bangladesh||31.2 million|
|#5||Shanghai||🇨🇳 China||25.3 million|
|#6||Karachi||🇵🇰 Pakistan||24.8 million|
|#7||Kinshasa||🇨🇩 DR Congo||24.7 million|
|#8||Lagos||🇳🇬 Nigeria||24.2 million|
|#9||Mexico City||🇲🇽 Mexico||23.5 million|
|#10||Mumbai||🇮🇳 India||23.1 million|
While Jakarta’s 38 million-strong population is expected to emerge in first place, the city may not retain its status as Indonesia’s capital for much longer. Rising sea levels and poor water infrastructure management mean that Jakarta is rapidly sinking—and the government now plans to pivot the capital to Borneo island.
On the African continent, Kinshasa and Lagos are already among the world’s largest megacities (home to over 10 million people), and will hold top spots by the turn of the century.
Population and demographics can be major assets to a country’s growth. For example, India’s burgeoning working-age demographics will present a unique advantage—and the country is projected to contain several of the fastest growing cities in the coming years.
Top 10 Cities By Estimated Annual GDP Growth
When comparing cities based on their pace of economic growth, there are some clear standouts. Average annual GDP growth across cities is 2.6%, but the top 10 surpass this by a fair amount.
The kicker? All of 2035’s major players will be found in Asia: four of the fastest-growing cities will be in mainland China, another four in India, and the last two in Southeast Asia.
At #1 by 2035 is Bangalore with an expected 8.5% annual growth forecast—its high-quality talent pool makes the city a breeding ground for tech startups. Jakarta makes another appearance, with its projected 5.2% growth at double the city average.
Shanghai finds its way onto all three lists. The commercial capital hosts the world’s busiest port, and one of China’s two major stock exchanges. These sectors could help boost Shanghai’s annual GDP growth to 5% in 2035.
Looking to the Future
Of course, any number of variables could impact these 2035 projections, from financial recessions and political uncertainty, to rapid urbanization and technological advances.
But one thing’s certain—in the coming decades, cities are where many of these factors will converge and play out.
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