The 10 Most Livable (and Unlivable) Cities in the World

By Alex Berezow, PhD — Aug 16, 2017
No U.S. cities are in the top 10. Thankfully, no U.S. cities are in the bottom 10, either.

Every year, The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes a ranking of world cities based on their livability.

Obviously, that's an inherently subjective ranking. I've lived in Seattle for 13 years precisely because my wife and I think it is the most beautiful city we have ever seen. That doesn't seem to matter too much to the folks over at The Economist, however.

Their livability index is weighted as follows: 25% for stability (e.g., crime, terrorism, war); 20% for healthcare (availability and quality); 25% for culture and environment (which includes a grab-bag of various metrics, such as temperature, level of corruption, and cultural attractions); 10% for education (availability and quality); and 20% for infrastructure quality. Using this algorithm, the researchers ranked 140 world cities.

Based on these objective-ish measures of inherently subjective qualities, what are the top 10 most livable cities in the world according to The Economist?

Once again (for the seventh year in a row), Melbourne, Australia is ranked #1. In fact, Australia has three of the top ten, Canada has three, and Europe has three. Auckland, New Zealand also gets a slot. Notably, neither Seattle nor any other U.S. city is in the top 10.

Thankfully, there are no U.S. cities in the bottom 10. Here's their list of the world's worst cities:

Some of these are not a surprise: Damascus is in a war zone. However, others are rather surprising (at least to me, anyway). I didn't expect to see Algiers (Algeria) and Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) on the list. (Maybe the latter has something to do with cannibalism.) Ukraine has been invaded by Russia, but Kiev is not located in the war zone.

It's hard to know what to make of this ranking system. We can't argue that The Economist is purposefully biased; otherwise, British cities would appear in the top ten. However, any algorithm that ranks mostly English-speaking cities in the top ten seems a bit skewed. It's difficult to believe that no cities from Japan, Sweden, France, or Norway make the list. Likewise, it's difficult to believe that not a single U.S. city cracks the top ten.

Seattle, anyone?

Source: "The Global Liveability Report 2017." The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2017.

Alex Berezow, PhD

Former Vice President of Scientific Communications

Dr. Alex Berezow is a PhD microbiologist, science writer, and public speaker who specializes in the debunking of junk science for the American Council on Science and Health. He is also a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and a featured speaker for The Insight Bureau. Formerly, he was the founding editor of RealClearScience.

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