What makes a city liveable? According to the Economist, a number of factors, and in the last few years security has become a dominant one. The Economist Intelligence Unit has just released their Liveability ranking and the top cities have not changed in much in the last few years, with Melbourne, Australia remaining at the top. But below the top cities, there have been some changes, primarily due to terrorism and security.
Of the top ten cities, three are in Australia, three in Canada and three in Europe. The cities are rated on the basis of stability (25%), health care (20%), culture and environment (25%), education (10%) and Infrastructure (20%). None are in the USA:
US cities have recently seen further declines in scores. This partly stems from unrest related to a number of deaths of black people either in police custody or shot on the street despite being unarmed in the past couple of years. Paris is another city that has seen a sharp decline in its ranking, due to a mounting number of terrorist attacks taking place in the city, and in other parts of the country, over the past three years.
The cities that score highest are “mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density. These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure”. The big cities that we write so much about as being so wonderful because of density, transit, culture etc. don’t do so well; perhaps it is time to rethink those priorities a bit.
Global business centres tend to be victims of their own success. The “big city buzz” that they enjoy can overstretch infrastructure and cause higher crime rates. New York, London, Paris and Tokyo are all prestigious hubs with a wealth of recreational activity, but all suffer from higher levels of crime, congestion and public transport problems than are deemed comfortable. The question is how much wages, the cost of living and personal taste for a location can offset liveability factors.
Residents of any of the top cities could probably roll their eyes at this analysis; I can only talk about the Canadian cities, but Vancouver is in a housing affordability crisis, Calgary is in economic recession, and Toronto is an infrastructure and leadership mess. But the ratings are determined by “the judgment of in–house expert country analysts and a field correspondent based in each city” and probably are more objective than a resident might be.
Also interesting is the list of cities that deteriorated the most in five years. Damascus or Caracas would be no surprise, but Detroit? I thought it was on the upswing. More in the Economist.