Blog | 13 Jun 2024

Quality of life is highest in these 10 cities in 2024

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

We recently launched our new Global Cities Index, which covers the 1,000 largest cities in the world and evaluates their performance in five categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment, and Governance. In Part 1 of our blog series, we covered the overall results of the Global Cities Index. In Part 2, we took a closer look at the Economics category and in Part 3, we examined the Human Capital category. Now, in Part 4, we turn to Quality of Life.

Quality of Life plays an important role in city attractiveness

The Quality of Life category encapsulates the wellbeing and satisfaction of a city’s residents, reflecting the intersection of various socioeconomic factors. This category provides insights into the liveability and attractiveness of a city, which can play a role in migration patterns, talent retention, and the overall happiness of residents. While a city’s economy may be the reason people move to a city, its quality of life is often what keeps them there. Our Quality of Life category contains six indicators to comprehensively assess a city’s liveability:

Indicators in the Quality of Life category

Income equality: The Gini coefficient for total household income in the city (a measure of household income equality).
Income per person: The total household disposable income of the city divided by its population, adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) across countries.
Housing expenditure: The share of household disposable income spent on housing and utilities in the city.
Life expectancy: The life expectancy at birth for residents of the city.
Recreation & cultural sites: The number of recreation and cultural sites in the city divided by its population.
Internet speed: The average broadband internet download speed in the city.

These indicators measure the benefits of living in each location and residents’ wellbeing, covering financial and health outcomes, as well as access to amenities. They underscore the importance of urban policies that not only prioritise economic prosperity, but also health, equality, and cultural vibrancy, enhancing residents’ overall wellbeing.

The top 10 cities in the Quality of Life category

At the top of the Quality of Life category are cities with lower inequality and residents that live long lives. Most of these cities also provide residents with access to a wide range of recreation and cultural amenities. They tend to be smaller than the leading cities in the Economics or Human Capital categories, and every city in the top 10 is located in Western Europe, bar one in Australia.

Grenoble, France scores highest in this category, driven by its high income equality and multitude of recreation and cultural sites per person. Like others on this list, the city’s proximity to the Alps gives it a pristine setting for outdoor recreational activities, which it couples with a variety of museums, festivals, and other cultural offerings.

In second place is the lone non-European city in the top 10, Canberra. It benefits from among the highest life expectancy rates in the world and high levels of income per person. While Sydney and Melbourne are more often seen as the leading metros in Australia, the country’s capital has higher incomes per person and income equality, and residents spend a much lower share of their income on housing than in other major Australian cities.

Hover over the chart to see the Quality of Life scores of the top cities:

The rest of the top 10 are all cities in Western Europe. Three Swiss cities appear on the list: Bern (#3), Basel (#5), and Zurich (#8). All three achieve high scores for both income per person and income equality. Residents’ incomes in these metros rival those of the top US cities, but the distribution of that wealth is far more equal in Switzerland, a key component to making a city liveable for all. And like Grenoble, these Swiss cities have a plethora of recreation and cultural sites to offer their residents, in part due to their proximity to the Alps.

The Nordic cities of Bergen (#4) and Reykjavik (#7) have also leveraged their breathtaking landscapes by providing an assortment of recreational amenities to their residents. They have lower incomes than the Swiss metros, but equality remains high, as are their life expectancies.

Residents of the remaining cities in the top 10, Luxembourg (#6), Gent (#9), and Nantes (#10) also benefit from long lives, high income equality, and many recreation and cultural amenities. The fact that small, Western European cities dominate the Quality of Life rankings is probably not a coincidence. These cities don’t play as big of a role in the global economy or host as many universities or corporate offices as other, larger metros, but they have prioritised policies that allow their residents to thrive, maximising their wellbeing.

These cities aren’t without their issues though. Many have poor scores for housing expenditure due to their high housing costs, perhaps precisely because these cities are so attractive to residents. If they are unable to get a handle on this issue, these metros may face full-blown housing crises in the future, like many larger cities are experiencing today. But, the cities that are able to distribute high incomes equally and provide their residents with strong health outcomes and amenities will likely see themselves at the top of the list in years to come.

Join the upcoming webinar to discover more key findings of our Global Cities Index:

About the Global Cities Index

The Oxford Economics Global Cities Index ranks the largest 1,000 cities in the world based on five categories: Economics, Human Capital, Quality of Life, Environment and Governance. Underpinned by Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Service, the index provides a consistent framework for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of urban economies across a total of 27 indicators. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most detailed cities index in the industry. To download the full report, please visit


Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

+44 (0) 20 3910 8018

Anthony Bernard-Sasges

Senior Economist, Cities and Regions

London, United Kingdom

Anthony Bernard-Sasges is a senior economist. He primarily produces research and forecasts for cities in Canada and the Middle East & North Africa. Anthony holds a master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s degree in International Political Economics from Georgetown University.

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