Quality of life in global cities

Our analysis of global cities assesses urbanites’ quality of life through four indicators: transportation and infrastructure; health, safety, and security; sustainability and the natural environment; and demographics and livability. It focuses on the infrastructure that serves the public good.

Transportation and infrastructure

This indicator focuses five variables on public transit within the city, with another two variables adding a look at housing and construction activity. In this edition, we changed the data mix to better reflect urban reality on the ground by adding in traffic congestion and ease of commute and adjusted cost of public transit to reflect affordability gauged by the local average hourly wage.

This refinement of the indicator has led to a considerable realignment. While six of the cities currently in the top 10 were also in that group in our last report, a deeper analysis, shows that the integration of urban mobility data has altered relationships and rankings for cities including Stockholm, San Francisco, Chicago, Dubai and Sydney moving up and Toronto and Seoul moving down. While Singapore still performs best with system engineering and practical results reinforcing each other and top housing adding to the mix (where it tied with Sydney as in last edition), #3 Stockholm has sailed ahead this year, from #8 in our last report driven by excellence in ease of commute and traffic congestion, the two variables moved here from demographics and livability. Berlin also moved up from #9 to fourth place in this edition, and Sydney jumped from #25 to tenth driven by good system performance.

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Pak Ahok, "Building Jakarta's infrastructure, quality of life, economy"

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Margareta Wahlstrom, Urban Resilience: Aware, accessible, aligned

Health, safety and security

While four health, safety, and security variables remain the same in this edition, we’ve added two new ones that add timely relevance to the vulnerabilities that threaten personal and collective wellbeing in a modern city—security and disease risk and road safety. We also deleted hospitals and health employment to remove the chance of penalizing well-resourced systems and rewarding those with large yet inefficient staffing.

First-place Tokyo reflects the greatest change in performance in this edition. In addition to the removal of hospitals and health employment, where Tokyo finished three from the bottom, the city is buoyed by its #1 score in security and disease risk, #2 in health system performance and top 10 standing in all others except end of life care, where it finishes 13th.

"Every household has its own difficulty. That is why we want to unite them together as one community."

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Pak Ahok)
Jakarta, Governor

Sustainability and the natural environment

This edition expands and enhances the data measured in this indicator. We’ve added two new variables: natural disaster preparedness and water-related business risk. The first one complements our natural disaster exposure variable—which we’ve also redesigned and improved with new data—by assessing a city’s actions to contend with its environmental threats. In today’s world, this perspective is extremely important to know.

The fact that Tokyo is both the most vulnerable city to natural disaster, but also the best prepared of the 30 cities here to meet its risks, provides a good example of our new framework—and what it takes for a city to deal with challenges from increasingly extreme weather. The city is well aware of the dangers if faces from earthquakes and tsunamis and is ready to deal with them, from developing forward-looking plans and strategies to implementing advanced technologies to educating and testing its citizens in safety procedures.

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Margareta Wahlstrom, "It takes a city: Resilience in a time of climate change"

Demographics and livability

In this edition, three new variables—city brand, senior wellbeing, and YouthfulCities Index—boost the performance of cities like Paris, New York and Los Angeles (6, 9, and 10 places respectively) and depress that of Singapore (12 places) since our 2014 study. This edition we’ve also fine-tuned our entertainment and attractions variable (previously cultural vibrancy) to reflect greater breadth and balance of cultural resources, including sporting events, museums, performing arts, and culinary variety. And we moved traffic congestion and ease of commute from here in the last study to the transportation and infrastructure indicator in this edition to consolidate data on intra-city transit.

Nonetheless, high-performing cities follow a similar pattern. Eight of our top 10 cities repeat from the last report. The cities in this year’s top 10 split evenly between North America and Europe—New York and Paris tied for first, and then in descending order London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Toronto, Berlin, Chicago, and Stockholm. The top 10 validate the strength of Europe after so many years of recessionary economics and for all the cities it shows their ability to sustain quality after continuous, global competition.

"Brooklyn has fundamentally changed. So our demographic is more robustly Brooklyn because this is the place for young, creative talent in all possible disciplines of culture."

Joseph Melillo
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Executive Producer

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Rollie Quinn

Global Leader, Government & Public Services, PwC US

Hazem Galal

Cities & Local Government Sector Global Leader, PwC US

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