Cities of Opportunity

The living city

London, Singapore, Toronto and Paris top the 2016 benchmark (our 7th edition) of the broad urban qualities that make 30 global business, finance and culture capitals successful. Beneath the headline results of who finishes first, however, findings show the heart of the city revolves around balanced social and economic strengths. And even in this group of cities that power the world economy, quality of life factors jump out in relation to urban success. People are at the center of the big city picture.

Top cities show balanced strengths

Education, transit, health, economics, and governance all have to line up for a city to lead. London proves this again as its balanced strengths create distance from other advanced cities. Further, eight cities make the top 3 in two or more indicators—London, Singapore, Paris, Beijing , Sydney, Toronto, Stockholm, and New York. A good combination of social and economic strengths is required to succeed.


Three ingredients of healthy city life

Our snapshot of urban wellbeing today is built on 67 data variables. These are divided among 10 indicator categories, and then organized into three families of information. All in all, the study captures a holistic view of urban life.

Tools for a changing world

London, Paris, New York, Tokyo and Amsterdam make the top 10 in all three indicators—or tools—needed to be at the forefront of a digitally and physically connected, knowledge-based world.

The intellectual capital and innovation indicator focuses on education and, secondarily, the innovation that a highly educated society generates.

Technology readiness frames the technological potential of a really smart city—one that “uses digital intelligence to improve citizens’ lives,” as Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, tells us.

City gateway quantifies a city’s global connections and attraction beyond its local borders. and It measures a city’s global draw, taking its pulse in today’s internationally networked world.

As a group, city gateway unlocks a physical door to a fluidly interconnected world while, technological readiness opens a digital portal to it. Intellectual capital and innovation nurtures the creativity and achievement that will drive a city’s future social and economic wellbeing.

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Quality of life

The basis for common wellbeing and prosperity begins with each urban resident’s quality of life. This section is the most important in understanding how to build the infrastructure that serves the public good. Its four indicators—transportation and infrastructure; health, safety, and security; sustainability and the natural environment; and demographics and livability—speak directly to the results of many urban policies in our 30 cities. It is also the one section that centers on the daily conditions of life for most of the residents of those cities. Developed cities dominate the top results.

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Economic achievement proves the most open and diverse of our three indicator families. No city breaks through to the top 10 in all three indicators. The cities that do best in at least two indicators are London, Toronto, New York, Singapore, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, and Stockholm. This section combines the three indicators that assess and analyze the aspects of urban economies that are directly related to growth and continuing durability, stability, and capability. They try to measure the structural capacity and support that each urban economy offers to the forces that propel economic development. Ease of doing business and cost indicators, especially, evaluate the degree to which each of our 30 cities has designed and put in place an economic framework that will allow all kinds of entrepreneurial and innovative spirits to thrive. Economic clout tests strength now and also takes the pulse of urban momentum.

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A journey into the city:

Patterns to notice and points worth a detour

Finding patterns look deeper into our results, as well as outward to orient our cities on economic growth, jobs, and demographics. Our key issues focuses on three critical areas: building risk resilience to a range of modern threats, knitting together an efficient and effective metropolitan transit system, and tailoring taxation to the individual needs of each city.

“ When Ericsson tries to attract people to Stockholm, what do these individuals do? They look at the city, as well as the workplace. They look at… the whole life picture. Cities and employers have come to accept that all these ingredients do make a difference… Otherwise, it’s not going to be a competitive city.”

Jacob Wallenberg, Chairman of Investor AB


How does your city compare?

See how individual cities compare in the findings in your areas of interest.

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Voices of the city

Leaders of thought and action from business, government, infrastructure management, risk resilience, academia, and culture add insight on what makes urban ecosystems work. 

Margareta Wahlström

Former Special Representative, UN
Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

Reducing the toll of urban disaster

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama
(Pak Ahok)

Jakarta, Governor

Clean government lays the foundation in Jakarta

Jacob Wallenberg

Investor AB, Chairman

Large companies {are} becoming much more engaged …about how the city can develop


About the study

Our benchmarking approach of transparency, consistency and balance continues this edition. But we’ve bolstered the research breadth adding 15 new variables, and deleting or modifying another 12.



Related content

Cities of Opportunity: The urban rhythm of entertainment and media

Urbanism and the entertainment and media industry share a natural connection. The cultural, technological and communications heart of the modern world is driven from and by cities. (2015)

Into Africa: The continent’s Cities of Opportunity

Into Africa applies the Cities of Opportunity lens to 20 cities among the most dynamic and focused on the future. But here we’ve designed the approach to focus specifically on African urban issues. (2015)

Contact us

Tim Ryan
US Chairman and Senior Partner

Peter D Raymond
Global Advisory Leader, Capital Projects & Infrastructure
Tel: +1 (703) 918 1580

Rollie Quinn
Global Leader, Government & Public Services
Tel: +1 (703) 762 7252

Hazem Galal
Cities & Local Government Sector Global Leader
Tel: +971 4 304 3393

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