Monday, November 21, 2005

Is Geneva the World's Best City Based on Quality of Life?

Ther Mercer Rankings for the year 2005 rank San Francisco as the 25th best city in the world and New York City is ranked as #39. None of the major cities in the United States cracks the world top 25! If this survey is to be believed, what does this really mean?

As described at the bottom of this blog entry, the Mercer Consulting group does try to quantify differences in each city's objective quality based on a variety of criteria ranging from schools to natural disasters. Such researchers face many subjective decisions. Post 9/11/2001, how much did New York City's quality of life decline by? Given that there hasn't been a 2nd major terrorist attack there since 9/11, has New York City's ranking risen over time?

How does Mercer choose how much weight to give each of their criteria? Clearly people will rank the criteria differently. If I don't have children, I may care little about local school quality.

I'd also like to know how multinational corporations use this information. If a company sends a worker to a low quality of life city (based on this index), does the corporation pay extra "combat pay" as a compensating differential to offset the lost amenities of living in a nicer city?

Clearly, if we had freer migration across international borders and we had origin/destination data we could estimate some revealed preference migration models. Are people voting with their feet and migrating to Geneva? How much higher are home prices there and how much lower are wages there? In the absence of such market tests, we must rely on Mercer for such fun rankings.

Swiss cities offer the best quality of life while
Luxembourg has been named the safest city
A report by Mercer Consulting

The Swiss cities of Geneva and Zurich offer the best quality of life according to research published by Mercer Consulting in March 2005. Vancouver (Canada) is placed third, followed by Vienna (Austria) and Frankfurt (Germany).

EIU names Vancouver, Melbourne and Vienna as 'best' cities in the world

Cities in Europe, New Zealand, and Australia continue to rank highly. Munich and Düsseldorf both move up the rankings, from 10th and 12th place respectively, to share joint 5th place with Frankfurt. Munich’s rise is due to more efficient waste removal systems and better housing for expatriates, while Düsseldorf’s transport and standards of international schooling have improved. Bern, Copenhagen, and Sydney are pushed down slightly to rank 8 with scores of 105.

In the US, Honolulu and San Francisco rank highest in joint 25th position (score 102), mainly because they have lower crime levels than other US cities. Boston, New York, Portland, and Washington follow in positions 36, 39, 42, and 42 respectively (score 100.5, 100, 99, 99), while Houston ranks lowest at position 68 (score 94).

The analysis was based on an evaluation of 39 quality of life criteria for each city, including political, social, economic, and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport, and other public services.

Baghdad remains the world’s least attractive city for expatriates. Its low score (14.5) is due to the recurrent threat of attacks against people, multinational organisations, and government institutions in the area. Other poor-scoring cities for overall quality of life include Bangui in the Central African Republic (score 29), Brazzaville in Congo, and Khartoum in Sudan (29.5 and 31 respectively).

The world's top 55 cities offering the best quality of life
(New York is the base city with a score of 100 points)

2005 Rank

1 Geneva Switzerland
2 Zurich Switzerland
Vancouver Canada
Vienna Austria
Frankfurt Germany
Munich Germany
Düsseldorf Germany
Auckland New Zealand
Bern Switzerland
Copenhagen Denmark
Sydney Australia
Amsterdam Netherlands

Safety and security
Luxembourg ranks as the world’s top city for personal safety and security, according to a quality of life survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. The city scores 122.5 followed by Helsinki, Bern, Geneva, and Zurich which take joint second place with scores of 120.

Scores for personal safety and security are based on relationships with other countries, internal stability, and crime, including terrorism. Law enforcement, censorship, and limitations on personal freedom are also taken into account. (See Notes below for details.)

Cities are ranked against New York as the base city, which has a rating of 100. The analysis is part of a worldwide quality of life survey, covering 215 cities, to help governments and major companies to place employees on international assignments.

The Japanese cities of Omuta, Kastuyama, Tsukuba, and Yokkaichi score highest in Asia (joint 14th place with scores of 112.5), while Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver rank top in North America, in joint 18th place (score 112).

“The top-ranking cities for personal safety and security are in politically stable countries with good international relations and sustainable economic growth,” said Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer. “Most of the low-scoring cities are in countries with civil unrest, little law enforcement, and high levels of crime.”

The world’s least secure city is Baghdad (Iraq), with a score of 5 due to ongoing civil unrest and threats of attack in the city. Other low-ranking cities include Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, Bangui in Central African Republic, and Port Harcourt and Lagos in Nigeria , which score 24, 26.5, 32.5, and 32.5 respectively. These countries continue to experience political turmoil and low economic growth.

Western Europe
Many Western European cities appear at the top of the rankings. Luxembourg scores highest for personal safety and security, followed by Swiss and Scandinavian cities. Other high-scoring cities include Vienna, ranked 6th with a score of 116, followed by Düsseldorf, Munich, Nürnberg, Frankfurt, and Oslo, sharing 8th place with scores of 113.

In contrast, Athens, Rome, and London appear at the lower end of the rankings for this region, at positions 83, 74, and 69 respectively (score 93.5, 95.5, and 99), due to high levels of petty crime. Madrid also scores relatively low, sharing 69th position with London, due to terrorism.

Eastern Europe
Cities in Eastern European cities generally rank lower than those in Western Europe. Ljubljana in Slovenia scores highest for personal safety and security, at position 41 with a rating of 105, followed by Bratislava in Slovakia and Prague in the Czech Republic in joint 58th place scoring 100.

“Some Eastern European cities have gained higher scores in the rankings due to their accession to the European Union,” said Mr Parakatil. “There are noticeable differences in personal safety and security scores between many Eastern and Central European cities.”

Russian cities score poorly due to high crime rates, economic turmoil, and lack of internal stability. Moscow, Novosibirsk, Kazan, and St Petersburg take positions 198, 179, 179, and 175 respectively, with scores of 41.5, 52.5, 52.5, and 53.5.

North America
All of the Canadian cities covered by the survey appear in the top 20 rankings for personal safety and security. Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver rank jointly in position 18 with scores of 112.

In the US, Honolulu, Houston, Lexington, San Francisco, and Winston Salem rank highest in joint 45th position with scores of 104. Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Portland, and New York all follow in 58th place with scores of 100. The lowest scoring city in North America is Atlanta, ranked 90 with a score of 90.5, due to street crime and burglary.

In Mexico, Monterrey and Mexico City rank 87 and 126, scoring 92 and 72.5 respectively.

South America
Cities in South America tend to feature much lower in the rankings than those in North America. Growing unemployment and political instability in these regions have led to high crime levels.

Santiago in Chile ranks highest in 94th place with a score of 90. Buenos Aires in Argentina ranks 115 with a score of 77.5, while São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil take 148th and 167th position respectively, with scores of 63.5 and 56. Bogotá and Medellin in Colombia and Caracas in Venezuela rank lowest in positions 210, 205, and 193 respectively (score 33, 37.5, and 48) due to crime including kidnappings.

Mr Parakatil concluded: “As globalisation increases, security and relationships with other countries become more critical to overall quality of life standards in cities across the world.”

Survey methodology
The data for the 2005 survey was largely collected between September and November 2004 and was regularly updated to take account of changing circumstances.

The overall quality of life ranking is based on an evaluation of 39 quality of life criteria. The covered topic in 2005, “personal safety and security,” is based on an evaluation of six criteria that have been drawn from the overall quality of life survey. New York has been used as the base score for quality of life with a score of 100 points.

Mercer’s study is based on detailed assessments and evaluations of 39 key quality of life determinants, grouped in the following categories:

• Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc)
• Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services, etc)
• Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom, etc)
• Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc)
• Schools and education (standard and availability of schools, etc)
• Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transport, traffic congestion, etc)
• Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc)
• Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc)
• Housing (housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services, etc)
• Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)


Jon Dursi said...

The term is `hardship pay', I think, and yes, that's exactly what these reports (and the economist intelligence unit one, and all those like it) are used for; there are also generally corresponding ones quantifying cost of living. Employees who have to work abroad get paid in local PPP what they would make at home, plus some `hardship pay'-type allowance depending on where they go.

Biopolitical said...

“Each year, the Places Rated Almanac and The Book of American City Rankings issue their reports on the best places to live in America. San Francisco gets credit for its cosmopolitan charms and Lincoln gets credit for the allure of its housing market. Weighing the importance of education, climate, highways, bus systems, safety and recreation, researchers rank cities in order of overall desirability. The implicit assumption is that researchers have identified features that most people care about, and that we all pretty much agree about their relative importance. If that assumption is correct, and if your tastes are not atypical, you can save yourself the expense of purchasing the manuals. When all factors are accounted for, all inhabited cities must be equally attractive. If they weren’t, nobody would live in any but the best.”

Landsburg, Steven E. (1994): “The indifference principle.” In The Armchair Economist, New York: The Free Press.

Conclusion: the best place to live is La Coruña, Spain.

David Jeffery, Australia said...

Heh, good point!

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