The United States of Money in a 3D Map
The Department of Commerce just released the latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data by metropolitan area. GDP represents the total value of all goods and services everyone produces and sells. The American economy is complex and multifaceted, and GDP is the best way to summarize it all in one number. And breaking GDP out by geography provides and easy snapshot of the haves and have-nots in America.
Our 3D map illustrates the GDP for each of the 382 metro areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each pink spike represents the economic output for a given city—the higher the spike, the greater the economic output. To give you a sense for how big the American economy is, the greater Atlanta metro area has a GDP of $320 billion. That’s bigger than the entire country of Denmark.
This map clearly shows a huge gap in terms of economic output. Large metro areas undeniably contribute far more to the overall economy than small cities and rural areas. The disparity is so large that the top 20 metro areas collectively generate more output than all of the other 362 geographic areas put together ($7.872T vs $6.988T). If the top 20 cities formed their own country, they’d have the third largest economy in the world.
There aren’t any real surprises at the top of the list. New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the most populous cities in the country, and they similarly claim the top three spots in economic output. Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, falls to sixth place. Houston’s economy had a bad year in 2016 due in large part to falling oil prices. Hurricane Irma may or may not affect Houston’s long-term economic outlook. San Francisco on the other hand continues to enjoy an economic boom thanks to technology companies. If current trends continue, it will leapfrog into fourth place in the not too distant future.
Top 10 Metro Areas with the Highest GDP Output
1. New York - $1.43 Trillion
2. Los Angeles - $885 Billion
3. Chicago - $569 Billion
4. Dallas - $471 Billion
5. Washington DC - $449 Billion
6. Houston - $442 Billion
7. San Francisco - $406 Billion
8. Philadelphia - $381 Billion
9. Boston - $372 Billion
10. Atlanta - $320 Billion
The big takeaway from our map is that cities remain the engine powering the economic recovery in the U.S. And we don’t just mean the biggest cities, like New York and Los Angeles. In fact, the fastest economic growth comes from a second-tier of cities, like San Francisco and Atlanta. That’s not to say that rural areas and small towns are unimportant for the economy. Far from it. But urban areas are the most essential in terms of financial output.
Sources: Table 1.1