On the Global Livable Cities Index, the first U.S. city doesn’t appear until No. 17


There are about a million and three different ways to rank cities — here, here, and here as examples — but it is broadly relevant to do so, or at least have some metrics assigned to cities. In the 1950s, about 1/3 of the world lived in cities. By the 2050s, the belief is that close to 80 percent of the world will live in cities. That’s a huge shift over 100 years. This is part of the reason, but only part. Now, where you want to live — city or town, location in general — is a complex mix of individual factors, so any given survey can’t necessarily explain you. (Also, if airfare becomes insanely priced in the 2040s, people may choose to live closer to their core families, which would have pretty drastic impact on the economy, I’d reckon.)

Anyway, all that said — there’s a new study out. Let’s analyze it breathlessly. 

It’s called The Global Livable Cities Index — you can find a summary of results here, and a press release/link here. The researchers broke global cities into two tiers. The first tier is “clout,” which are economically-driven cities, for the most part. Think global hubs. Think about this. The second tier is “pleasant living,” so things like climate, transit, and environment. The two tiers use these indicators within each tier:

  • Economic vibrancy and competitiveness
  • Domestic security and stability
  • Public governance
  • Socio-cultural conditions
  • Environmental friendliness/sustainability

(Others were used as well.)

When you take the two tiers together, here’s the top 10 overall (combining “clout” and “pleasant living”):

  1. Geneva
  2. Zurich
  3. Singapore
  4. Copenhagen
  5. Helsinki
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Stockholm
  8. Berlin
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Auckland

Stop for a second. Notice anything?

There’s not a single U.S. city on the list so far. 

One reason might be that U.S. cities are a bit more aligned on “clout” — consider this, for example — and a bit less on “pleasant living.”

Let’s keep going.

11. Melbourne

12. Sydney

13. Paris

14. Vancouver

15. Amsterdam

16. Osaka

17. New York City

There we go. Number 17!

(Los Angeles and Philadelphia are 19/20, so the U.S. did have three in the top 20 of this particular study.)

The Economist did this same type of thing, by the way, and Melbourne won for the third year in a row.


Ted Bauer