New Chicago Council Report Decodes Global City Rankings

May 12, 2015
As global cities rise in importance, city rankings have become a cottage industry for consulting firms, think tanks, chambers of commerce, universities and media. Hundreds of indexes or rankings proclaim which cities are the most global, have the strongest economies, boast the greatest universities or enjoy the richest cultures. Some are comprehensive while others are niche, focusing for instance on real estate values or quality of life. With so many different methods and criteria, what value do such rankings have?
In a new report, Beyond the Scorecard: Understanding Global City Rankings, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs breaks down the history, differences and methodologies of these rankings in an easy-to-understand roadmap showing civic leaders how to use rankings to take advantage of their city’s dynamism and resources. This look beyond the scorecard also will help inform discussion and debate about how global cities can be the vanguards of change when civic, business, cultural and education leaders from around the world converge in Chicago May 27-29 for the inaugural Chicago Forum on Global Cities.
“Using rankings simply to determine which city is ‘best’ overall often obscures a city’s performance in many areas crucial to defining a global city,” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council. “Rather than taking a panoramic view, the Chicago Forum will leverage the experience and insights of leading luminaries from more than 20 countries to take a deeper dive into the different strengths, as well as challenges, of today’s global cities.”
Beyond the Scorecard is not itself a tool for evaluating cities but an analysis of select city rankings. The report:
  • Illustrates how methodologies, definitions, data use and conclusions vary wildly from ranking to ranking;
  • Notes biases and challenges common to many indexes, including the author’s perspective, lack of reliable and internationally comparable data and the routine presence of lagging indicators; and
  • Outlines practices to help policymakers navigate through the noise to find insights and trends depending on what kind of information they need.
“By learning to use deeper layers of information about a city’s performance within and across indicators, we hope to help mayors, investors and civic leaders of all types derive useful goals and policies to help harness the power of global cities in years to come,” said Michele Wucker, vice president of studies at the Council.
Beyond the Scorecard was commissioned by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and written by Scott Leff and Brittany Petersen of Leff Communications. It was compiled through an in-depth analysis of influential comprehensive rankings, niche rankings and studies based on macroeconomic data. Generous support for the report and The Chicago Council’s work on global cities is provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.
About The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, founded in 1922, is an independent, non-partisan organization committed to educating the public — and influencing the public discourse — on global issues of the day. The Council provides a forum in Chicago for world leaders, policymakers and other experts to speak to its members and the public on these issues. Long known for its public opinion surveys of American views on foreign policy, The Chicago Council also brings together stakeholders to examine issues and offer policy insight into areas such as global agriculture, the global economy, global energy, global cities, global security and global immigration. Learn more at and follow @ChicagoCouncil for updates.