Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sat Feb 13th 2010 at 11:24am UTC

Liveable Cities

UN Flags

The Winter Olympics’ host city of Vancouver tops the new list of the world’s most “liveable” cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit.  Toronto comes in fourth. Canadian and Australian cities do well. Not a single U.S. city makes the top 10. More here.


17 Responses to “Liveable Cities”

  1. Ron Wilson Says:

    It would be great to see the details and methodology of this study, but unfortunately they have to be purchased. If it’s anything like the UN’s HDI, there are probably some major normative assumptions built in.

  2. luke Says:

    I see a correlation between livability and housing costs. You’ll have to be a millionaire to buy a home in the top three. But in US cities, houses are a bargain.

  3. LauraNo Says:

    At least the top four. Toronto real estate very pricey too. But I notice that Toronto and Vienna both have very good public transportation. I wonder…

  4. Bjørn B Jacobsen, Oslo Says:

    Top ten with 90 procent Canada and Austrialia-cities? Why should we pay attention, when we know nothing about the facys here? Is this 1 or 10.000 peoples choice? Why Helsinki and not Stockholm or Oslo? Its to many “why” here to consider this ranking serious. The Anholt index are not reflecting countries who´s not paying, like Norway. Presenting a list saying this is Top Ten or “worlds best”, without informing the audience of the facts, the research, who´s paying/not paying, is mission impossible.

  5. Wendy Says:

    If you read the article, they give an overview of the methodology and weighting: it is based on how much hardship there is for ex-pats — so for people placed there by their employers.

    Health care access and costs are a major criteria, which knocks the US cities down the list right away. In all the other OECD countries, health care is considered a basic right — a service you receive in return for your taxes. So is good quality education for your children (another area where many US cities score poorly).

    The point is that if you place someone in Vancouver, you don’t likely need to pay them a “hardship” allowance. If you place them in La Paz Bolivia, you will need to offer the extra compensation.

    Your point about cost of living is a good one. I recall that it is in there, but not weighted as heavily as the other factors.

  6. Wendy Says:

    Sorry, should clarify — the article I read was in the Economist magazine, or it’s online version, which may be accessible for free (although I subscribe)>

  7. Ron Wilson Says:

    @Wendy – “Health care access and costs are a major criteria, which knocks the US cities down the list right away. In all the other OECD countries, health care is considered a basic right — a service you receive in return for your taxes. So is good quality education for your children (another area where many US cities score poorly).”

    Taxpayer funded health care and education are “good” = normative assumptions.

  8. Alan Says:

    Not sure who makes this stuff up – I write this from Melbourne, which has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world, sprawls to cover the same area as London (with half the population) has made endless suburbs where there are no shops, buses, trains, healthcare, hospitals or parks and (important this) is drastically short of water.

    Also, housing costs here make Melbourne one of the most expensive cities in the world with the average house price being 8 times the average income, coupled with the lack of public housing this leaves 14000 homeless every night.

    If we are number three, god knows what the rest of the world is like!

  9. AmericanPlanner Says:

    Another name for this list should be “World’s most boring and sterile cities”.

  10. Daniel Carins Says:

    IF Melbourne and Toronto are boring and sterile then you need to find a different planet to live on, AmericanPlanner to satisfy your insatiable desire for excitement and disease.

  11. Deep Says:

    On the surface American cities seem much cheaper. The price of a house in suburban Atlanta is dirt cheap compared to a house in downtown Toronto. However, in order to have a normal functioning life in Atlanta, one needs a car. That is an extra $10,000-20,000-even more in some cases. Double that amount for the average family of four. Not to mention you have the costs of insurance and maintenance. On the other hand it is not hard to live in Toronto without a car, people can get around by alternative modes of transportation.

    In densly developed cities it is easier to pool and share resources and costs can be spread around. Because of these advantages, the external costs in cities like Toronto or Calgary are much lower than in Atlanta or Dallas.

    I am surprised that Montreal is not on the list. Any city that has been dubbed as: Le Ville de Festival should be on the list.

  12. Michael Wells Says:

    Another take on this is to look at the top 100 and the order they’re in. It also gives the outlines of the methodology.

    Here is how the Economist ranks American cities in order by livability: Pittsburgh, Honolulu, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, DC, Atlanta, Miami, Cleveland, Houston, Seattle, LA, San Francisco. Anyone who knows these cities would have to question some of the order. Pittsburgh and Detroit are more livable than Minneapolis, Seattle and San Francisco?

    This puts some substantial doubt in my mind about the order of rest of the world. Vancouver doesn’t surprise me and I don’t know any of the other top 10 first hand, but they probably wouldn’t top my personal list just because I’ve never found them interesting enough to visit.

  13. Deep Says:


    I think the very high cost of living in San Francisco hurts the city’s livability ranking.

  14. Michael Wells Says:

    I went back to the link and US cities seem to all suffer in 2 areas — stability (crime) and healthcare. The criteria for some of these is idiosyncratic, for example climate matters more than the arts for “culture and environment”. Pittsburgh gets 100 for infrastructure and San Francisco 86, who knows why? Certainly easier to drive there.

  15. Wil Says:

    Quality of life is getting lower in US cities. Even San Francisco has declined substantially during the last twenty years. Poor healthcare, high crime, inflated housing costs, low education, not family friendly, and the inability to drive your car without experiencing rush hour level congestion for most of the day, all likely contribute to the low US ratings. I can understand why Vancouver always scores so highly on these lists; It is in a spectscular setting, easy access to wilderness and outdoor recreation, very diverse, relatively low crime, family friendly, miniscule slums, and an interesting cluster of industries.

  16. URENIO Watch: Innovation, Environments of Innovation, Intelligent Cities and Regions » Blog Archive » World’s Most Liveable Cities Says:

    [...] Via Creative Class Blog [...]

  17. Daniel Carins Says:

    This is unrelated, but will be of interest: