How cities perform

Behind the basic parameters that define how cities perform lie very different patterns of urban development, with diverse spatial, social and economic characteristics. In this city data matrix, LSE Cities has assembled information from a range of official sources for nine selected cities, revealing their social, governance, planning, transport and environmental patterns.

The graphic overview of these results highlights some striking differences. Lagos will be growing the most rapidly over the coming years, with an average annual population growth rate of 6.4% per year – more than three times faster than Delhi (2%) and nearly six times faster than Bogotá (1.2%). Tokyo, currently the largest metropolitan area in the world, is actually depopulating at a rate of -0.1% per year, which will amount to a reduction of almost 400,000 people between 2012 and 2030.
Lagos also leads on economic growth, with projected GVA for the metropolitan region increasing by 6.6% per year between 2012 and 2030, outdone only by Delhi, where the growth rate is projected to be 7% per year – a marked contrast to the relatively slow growth of Berlin and Tokyo. Looking at GVA per capita, New York (US$69,556) and Tokyo (US$53,344) top the list, followed by London (US$48,077) and Berlin (US$33,253). People living in these four cities are many times wealthier, on average, than those in Bogotá or Istanbul, which in turn are significantly wealthier than the average resident of Delhi (US$3,983) or Lagos (US$1,988).

At 12.3%, Berlin has the highest rate of unemployment of all nine cities (with Istanbul a close second at 11.8%), at a time where overall German unemployment has fallen to below 5% for the first time since the beginning of the last recession. Tokyo has the lowest unemployment rate at just 4.7%, twice as low as Delhi or London. However, only 15% of the residents of Tokyo are under the age of 20 (compared to 40% in Delhi and Lagos).

Tokyo also boasts one of the lowest levels of income inequality as indicated by the Gini coefficient – a measure of income distribution where the higher number represents greater inequality. While Tokyo and Berlin are the most equitable, Delhi and Lagos are dealing with Gini coefficients of 0.6 and higher, demonstrating that the strong economic growth has created a more unequal urban society.

When considering voter turnout in the most recent local elections, stark differences in political participation become immediately apparent. New York experienced a historically low turnout during the last elections, with only 24% of eligible voters casting their ballot. By comparison, nearly 90% of Istanbul voters turned out to vote.

Despite significant variation in the administrative structures and associated political powers of these cities, each has a democratically-elected body that acts as the legislative arm of the government. The London Assembly has the lowest number of representatives (25) while Istanbul’s Municipal Council has the highest (207). Arrangements relating to the city leadership are similarly divergent. Concerns about corruption and the concentration of political power mean that in Bogotá the mayor can only be elected for one four year term. By contrast in Delhi, London, Tokyo and Berlin, the mayor (or equivalent city leader) can in theory be re-elected an unlimited number of times.

In terms of the built environment, Delhi and Bogotá face very similar densities within their built-up area (around 20,000 people/km2) and both have a similarly low amount of green space per person, yet in the case of Delhi more than half of the total land area of the city is already built-up, while for Bogotá it is less than a fifth. New York has the highest percentage of built-up land (74%), followed closely by London (71%) and Berlin (69%).

Berlin and London also have the lowest average density, with Berlin being five times less dense than Delhi. While low density and a high built-up area may sound like a bad combination, it is in fact London and Berlin that have by far the highest amount of green space per person, with 36m2 and 39m2 respectively, with the residents of Lagos only benefitting from 0.002 m2 of green space per person.

Figures for car ownership and public transport use also vary widely, highlighting the cities’ diverse transport infrastructures. Berlin has both the lowest public transport use (26% of all trips) and highest car ownership rate (334 cars per 1,000 inhabitants) although it should be noted that ‘ownership’ does not equate to ‘use’, and commutes undertaken by bicycle or on foot are not accounted for here. By contrast, 70% of trips in Lagos are made by bus, and it has the lowest car ownership rate of all nine cities. However, its air pollution levels are high with PM10 levels of 122µg/m3, although not as severe as Delhi’s (286µg/m3 of PM10).

Measurement years and methodologies used to calculate indicator values may vary between cities and are not always comparable.