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What are the four main characteristics of global cities?

Global cities are command centers for the global economy, headquarters of leading financial services, production sites for goods and services, and sites of consumption for those goods and services.

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People might have slightly different conceptions of what makes a global city, but social scientists generally agree on four defining characteristics. These four characteristics came from sociologist Saskia Sassen’s 1991 work The Global City.

The first characteristic is that global cities are command centers for the global economy. Consider...

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People might have slightly different conceptions of what makes a global city, but social scientists generally agree on four defining characteristics. These four characteristics came from sociologist Saskia Sassen’s 1991 work The Global City.

The first characteristic is that global cities are command centers for the global economy. Consider how certain companies and industries are becoming increasingly global and decentralized, with production points and consumers all over the world. Global cities are places in which these companies coordinate this widespread production. For example, Pfizer is a global biopharmaceutical company that produces all over the world and is headquartered in New York City. The second characteristic of global cities is that they serve as the headquarters for leading financial services. For example, think of New York City’s world-famous stock exchange.

The third characteristic is that these cities are themselves production sites for services and goods that are central to the global economy. Not only do these cities take control of the faraway production and consumption of services, but they also participate in that production. In addition, the fourth characteristic is that these global cities are sites of consumption for these services and goods.

For example, JP Morgan Chase is a leading financial service provider headquartered in New York City. New York is thus the command center for Chase’s global work. But Chase also offers services to active consumers in New York itself.

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