Decline Watch: City Living

Global Human Resources firm Mercer has released its 2011 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings. The index ranks cities based on political stability, economic environment, cultural environment, sanitation, education, public services, recreation and other factors. In theory, the list is used by firms to allot appropriate compensation for employees relocated to these cities.  As it ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Global Human Resources firm Mercer has released its 2011 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings. The index ranks cities based on political stability, economic environment, cultural environment, sanitation, education, public services, recreation and other factors. In theory, the list is used by firms to allot appropriate compensation for employees relocated to these cities. 

As it turns out, Europe's economies may be imploding, but its cities are still pretty nice places to live, comprising more than half the cities in the top 25, including first ranked, Vienna. (At least it's not those smug Norwegians again! Oslo's down at 33rd.)

Decline-o-meter: How did America's shining cities on hills fare? There are eight U.S. cities in the top 50, more than any other country, with the highest ranked being President Obama's hometown, Honolulu, at 29. That's the same number as last year, although Portland fell out of the top 50 and Pittsburgh squeaked in. (Congrats yinz!)

Global Human Resources firm Mercer has released its 2011 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings. The index ranks cities based on political stability, economic environment, cultural environment, sanitation, education, public services, recreation and other factors. In theory, the list is used by firms to allot appropriate compensation for employees relocated to these cities. 

As it turns out, Europe’s economies may be imploding, but its cities are still pretty nice places to live, comprising more than half the cities in the top 25, including first ranked, Vienna. (At least it’s not those smug Norwegians again! Oslo’s down at 33rd.)

Decline-o-meter: How did America’s shining cities on hills fare? There are eight U.S. cities in the top 50, more than any other country, with the highest ranked being President Obama’s hometown, Honolulu, at 29. That’s the same number as last year, although Portland fell out of the top 50 and Pittsburgh squeaked in. (Congrats yinz!)

That’s not too shabby. Although it’s slightly less impressive when you consider that Canada, with about 1/10th of the population and a slightly lower urban population by percentage, has five, nearly all of them higher than 29th place. Germany has seven. No BRIC cities made the cut. 

Of course, compare the U.S. to the EU as a whole and it’s not even close. But still, for all the talk of Americans’ distrust of urbanization, over 80 percent of them live in cities and many of them are quite nice. 

See also: Global Thinkers Edward Glaeser and Saskia Sassen’s list of 16 cities to watch from the new print issue. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.