Normally, or so I believe, it is easier for people to realize what is lacking in their cities than what they have of great or distinctive. One could fairly say that it is very difficult to realize such things if you don’t effectively know that many great cities, even more if you, like me, have never travelled to another continent, challenging by all means your perception of everyday life. If in other circumstances that could probably invalidate my capacity to judge what is supposed to be the best city in the world to live in, the most recent contest organized by the EIU together with Buzzdata challenges such assumption by emanating a useful compilation of data and a Liveability Index to be utilized by the ones that, like me, want to take the quest.
If you’re a first timer here, hello. My name is João and I’m writing from Cacém, in the suburbs of Lisboa in Portugal. I’m a bachelor in Economics, I’m finishing my master’s degree in Development and International Cooperation in a couple of months and I’m by no means a statiscian. In fact, I spent good part of my last year rejecting the more numerical approach to the science but, you know what they say, what goes arround comes arround. I started this text arguing that it is easier for us, ordinary people, to complain about what lacks our city than to praise its merits and it was exactly how this idea got to my mind. After spending a couple of months in Belgium studying in the great city of Liège under the Erasmus Programme, I felt very concretely the peripheral condition of Lisbon ever since I came back.
Taking the EIU’s Liveability Index as the main ground for my work, what I simply try to do here is reformulating the final results of such ponderation, which I feel that erroneously underestimate the importance not only of the geographic proximity to the greatest cities but also of the cultural exchange happening in highly diversified areas. Of course multiplicity can only be proficuous in the right institutional environment and under conditions of stability and healthy interaction, but that’s already explored in the Liveability Index we adopt from the EIU’s crew.
My first task was therefore to measure the (flying) distances between the 144 cities in competition and all the 21 cities with score superior to 90%. That would give me their proximity to the greatest cities in the world, according to the Index. As expected, several cities ranking high on the original tables fell short on connectivity indicators; this is not a surprise as long as the original publication highly favored very isolated Commonweath territories, notably in Australia and New Zealand. Simple additional computations allowed us to calculate the median and the standard deviation of our population. I opted for the use of the median as preferential indicator due to the assymetric nature of our data.
But, as stated earlier in this article, proximity of great cities is not everything. Very similar cities, is believed, have little extra value to add to each other. On the other hand, different cities, with different cultural paths and heritages, have the potencial to develop the kind of dialogue that not only sets ground for common development but also helps people realizing their potential and living flourishing and complete lives. As a barometer for cultural path, I’ve chosen the language indicator. Despite its simplicity, it is, I believe, a fair and significant sign of cultural variance. Borders still matter in this category as well, so only cities from different countries were considered in the subsequent computations.
The result favors largely the fragmented European territory, as comproved by our last indicator: Number of >90% Cities with Different Country and Different Language within 1000 km. European cities got ridiculous results, being such fragmentation an important cultural heritage of the Continent as a whole. Other cities did well and deserve reference, like the cases of Miami, Montreal and Hong Kong. If in the future the centrality of Hong Kong is to increase, that’s something we’ll have to wait and see. Vienna proved to be the closest >90% city for 25 cities of the lot, an impressive result; however, the same city didn’t meet such high standards in the other statistics and indicators.
Here, the figure shows the relation between Liveability Index, Median of the Distances and >90% Cities with Different Country and Language within 1000 km. By interpreting the map, we can pick up our undoubtful winner. It was a risk I decided to take, representing my final results graphically instead of calculating a reformulated index. It seemed logic for me and it was convenient, as it saved me a lot of precious time (a man needs to work, from times to times). I think the results are clear enough to prove my point.
Alone in the superior left corner, we have a city ranking high on the Liveability Index (95%) [vertical axis], the lowest on median distance [horizontal axis] and pretty awesome on >90% cities with different country and language within 1000 km. The winner is…
Stockholm, a great city with huge connectivity potencial, is a very reasonable bet. Feel free to comment, I’m very available for any questions and demands for clarifications. I spent a great time working on this project, hoping someone would find some value in it; if you found it, please leave a note for the author.
(All distances calculated using Google Maps software.)