This city has the highest quality of life in the world (hint: it isn’t in the U.S.)

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August 19, 2017

Quality of life in the planet’s biggest cities is finally improving, but no U.S. city makes No. 1.

Melbourne, Australia ranks as No. 1 for the seventh consecutive year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 10th annual “Global Livability Ranking” of 140 cities around the world. It was followed by Vienna, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Hamburg. The first American city to generate the ranking was Honolulu at No. 17, followed by Washington, D.C. (No. 20), Boston (No. 34), Chicago and Miami (joint No. 38) and Pittsburgh (No. 41).

Over the last decade, there’s been a European currency crisis, anti-austerity riots, civil wars in Europe and the Middle East, a refugee crisis, mounting terror attacks and, most recently, civil unrest in the U.S. indicated from the white supremacist marches. The typical worldwide livability score fell to 74.8% in 2017 from 76.1% in 2007. But 12 cities enrolled improvements in livability compared with just six that registered declines, said John Copestake, editor of the poll.

Each city was assigned a score based on more than 30 quality of life variables across five categories of stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. So the more public parks and less traffic congestion and higher the quality of public schools, for instance, the higher the score. Each factor in every city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or excruciating. Any city with a rating of 80 out of 100 will have few, if any, challenges to living standards.

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Manchester and Stockholm fell in the ranking due to recent terrorist attacks, but overall, the ranking index saw improvements in the scores of a dozen cities, notably Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Reykjavik in Iceland. Amsterdam has cut crime rates in recent years prompting the Dutch government to start a prison closure program, while Reykjavik’s successful tourism campaigns and redevelopment of the downtown area has improved cultural amenities in the Icelandic capital.

The rankings are weighed down by mounting instability, Copestake said. “Many of the challenges to livability have not gone away, terror attacks have continued and economic posturing has produced further international uncertainty,” he added. Damascus in Syria, Lagos in Nigeria, Tripoli in Lybia, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Algiers in Algeria, Karachi in Paskistan, Harare in Zimbabwe, Douala in Cameroon and Kiev in the Ukraine were the least livable.

Earlier this year, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, also rated the world’s priciest cities. Of the 10 most expensive cities, five were in Asia. Singapore was No. 1, followed by Hong Kong, Zurich in Switzerland, Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, and Seoul in South Korea. Geneva in Switzerland and Paris tied for seventh, and New York and Copenhagen tied at No. 9. Almaty in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan was the cheapest.

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