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Prepare to feel smug — this is the world’s cleverest city

Man wearing Bowler hat in gallery
Londoners, we’re now the world’s cleverest city (Picture: Getty Images)

What makes a city clever? Is it the number of museums, the books people read on the underground, or their formal educational attainments? And does it really matter?

New data has ranked the world’s cleverest cities, and Londoners, prepare to feel smug: our city is the smartest in the world.

It’s no secret that London is home to an array of hotpots that are relatively good indicators of human capital, from museums to universities.

In fact, the Big Smoke houses around 40 educational institutions in and around London, including the prestigious London School of Economics and Imperial College London, as well as more than 200 museums and 800 art galleries.

The data was produced by Oxford Economics, assessing global cities and their economic index and ranking on economics, human capital (AKA, cleverness), quality of life, environment and governance.

Jefferson Memorial view form the Tidal Basin
The Jefferson Memorial is a top attraction in Washington DC (Picture: Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Tokyo came in second place (92.3) and Riyadh third (91.4). But surprisingly, one US hotspot is further down the list than you might expect.

With a population of 6.4 million, Washington DC might be the political capital of the United States, but it only ranks as the seventh cleverest city in the world. However, there are two other US cities in the top 10, with New York City coming in fourth and Boston at number 10.

Bordering Maryland and Virginia, Washington DC is famous for the three iconic political buildings that house the federal government’s branches: the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court.

National Mall, Washington DC
The National Mall in Washington DC is also a focal point (Picture: Getty Images)

It’s also home to the largest library in the world, as well as an impressive number of universities (17!), including George Washington, Georgetown and Howard – all factors which contribute to its human capital scoring, which takes into consideration educational attainment, universities, corporate headquarters, population growth, age profile and percentage of foreign-born population.

Likewise, when it comes to employment, there are a high number of well-paid government roles boosting levels of income per person, as well as numerous foreign diplomats that are stationed in the capital, all of which boost both the city’s educational attainment level, income and GDP, which per person works out at $110,300 or an overall figure of $706 billion.

Elsewhere, the research concluded that New York is the best city in the world purely based on ‘important economic contributions to the global economy,’ as well as being a ‘hub for education and business innovation, invest[ing] in the infrastructure necessary to maintain a high quality of life.’

On that front, our beloved London came in second place. And though it scored as 7th in the world in terms of economics, it ranked 292nd for quality of life, 197th for environment and 72nd for governance. Eek.

So, the next time you’re on the tube, have a look around to see what everyone’s reading, because we’re the cleverest city in the world (at least, for now). Go forth and prosper, bookworms.



The cleverest cities in the world, according to Oxford Economics

  1. London, United Kingdom: 100.0
  2. Tokyo, Japan: 92.3
  3. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: 91.4
  4. New York, United States: 89.4
  5. Seoul, South Korea: 86.7
  6. Paris, France: 85.9
  7. Washington DC, United States: 83.8
  8. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: 83.4
  9. Sydney, Australia: 81.3
  10. Boston, United States: 81.2.

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