Winner-Take-All Cities

This chapter examines the phenomenon of “winner-take-all urbanism” and “winner-take-all cities.” Large segments of the modern economy have been shown to conform to a “winner-take-all” pattern as superstar talent draws a disproportionate share of economic rewards (Rosen 1981; Adler 1985; Frank and Cook, 1996). But cities also conform to a winner-take-all pattern in which a small group of global “superstar cities” (Gyourko et al., 2013) account for a disproportionate share of talent, economic activity, innovation, and wealth (Florida, 2017). We track the distribution of several key factors to identify and describe this pattern of winner-take-all urbanism in global cities, comparing the distribution of economic activity or output, innovation (measured as venture capital-backed startups), and wealth (measured as the share of wealth held by billionaires) and compare them to the distribution of population. In particular, we look at the disproportionate share of economic activity, innovation, and wealth held by the “alpha” global cities which stand at the apex of the global economy (Beaverstock et al., 1999; Taylor and Walker, 2001). We find clear evidence of a winner-take-all urbanism across the global economy and the world’s cities.

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