The science of cities, or superlinear scaling

The science of cities, or superlinear scaling

Think New York is an exceptional city? Think again say some:

The Big Apple is just about average for a city of its size, and so are Los Angeles and Houston. But San Francisco is exceptional? Its inhabitants are wealthier, more productive, more innovative, and subject to fewer crimes than you would expect, given its size.

Turns out:

[M]any of the cities we typically think of as great ones probably wouldn’t show up near the top of most rankings if SFI External Professor Luis Bettencourt has his way. He and his colleagues believe traditional per-capita measures are not very useful for determining what makes one city better or worse than another because they don’t treat separately the roles population size and local character play in making it so.

Then what’s useful?

See also:
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The researchers have shown, in fact, that with each doubling of city population, each inhabitant is, on average, 15 percent wealthier, 15 percent more productive, 15 percent more innovative, and 15 percent more likely to be victimized by violent crime regardless of the city’s geography or the decade in which you pull the data.

Remarkably, this 15 percent rule holds for a number of other statistics as well – so much so that if you tell Bettencourt and West the population of an anonymous city, they can tell you the average speed at which its inhabitants walk.

Scientists call this phenomenon “superlinear scaling.”

Exceptional or not, I’m still a fan.