The Quest for Quality of Life May One Day Dethrone New York, London

Agenda-Setting Financial Insight.
April 2 2012 6:23 PM

The Quest for Quality of Life May One Day Dethrone New York, London

London sits at the top of the Kearney survey of "global cities," but it didn't even make the top five in Mercer's "quality of living" index.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The quest for quality of life may one day dethrone cities like New York and London. They’re still the most global cities, according to A.T. Kearney’s biennial ranking, with Paris and Tokyo next. But Vienna, rated only 13th among global cities, tops Mercer’s current quality of living survey. As technology makes location less critical, life quality may matter more. 

A.T. Kearney’s survey measures business activity, human capital, information exchange, culture and political engagement. These factors naturally favor big cities, so the dominance of melting-pot metropolises isn’t surprising. The lead of the top few over the rest suggests the Big Apple, London and the rest won’t be dethroned quickly. 

But in a decade or two, the survey reckons, cities that are now emerging could reach the top of the list. Chief among these are Beijing and Shanghai, where rising wealth, expanding infrastructure and improving business conditions may well outweigh negatives like pollution and the political environment. 

Mercer’s report on the quality of life offers a different view of the future. A good lifestyle doesn’t match with global prominence. None of Mercer’s top five cities features in A.T. Kearney’s top 10. And the most global centers are far from the most livable. 

Decision-makers and the wealthy presumably value lifestyle. And global communications have made it easier to do business remotely. The logical extension of that is that cities with a high quality of life should, over time, move up the rankings for global influence. Of course, some factors work the other way: the largest cities are generally better connected, and the very rich can overcome their cost disadvantages, which deter the merely affluent. 

Austria’s city of music isn’t likely ever to eclipse the city that never sleeps for global clout. Still, it’s just possible that Beijing and Shanghai, neither famous for lifestyle, may face unexpected competition from the likes of Auckland and Vancouver.

Martin Hutchinson covers emerging markets and economic policy, drawing on 25 years of experience as an international merchant banker. He ran derivatives platforms for two European banks.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 2 2014 6:00 AM Can’t Stomach It I was shamed for getting gastric bypass surgery. Should I keep the procedure a secret?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?