Saturday, April 07, 2007

Frankfurt ranks Top 7 City in the Quality of Living

When I moved to Frankfurt am Main nearly 10 years ago, I didn't know that I was going to live in a city with a quality of living ranking among the top-ten cities world-wide! That's what I learned today from the German news magazine Spiegel online, citing from the 2007 Quality of Living Survey by the Mercer Human Resource Consulting company. Here are the results for the ten highest-ranking cities:

5AUCKLANDNew Zealand107.3

According to the website describing details about the study, the rankings are based on data collected between September and November 2006, and 215 cities have been considered in the Quality of Living 2007 rankings. For each city, a "quality of living index" is calculated according to criteria which are are said to include Political and Social Environment, Economic Environment, Socio-Cultural Environment, Medical and Health Considerations, Schools and Education, Public Services and Transport, Recreation, Consumer Goods, Housing, and Natural Environment, and which is supposed to summarize the differences in living standards. The index is normalized for New York City, ranking at place 48, to score a value of 100. Its idea is to assess the quality of living for the delocalized workforce of the globalized markets, and supposed to be used to judge whether an expatriate is entitled to a hardship allowance...

I must say I am impressed, and a little bit positively surprised, to see three German cities among the top-ten cities world-wide!

The top cities in the Americas are Vancouver (3rd), Toronto (15th), Ottawa (tied for 18th), Montreal (22nd), Calgary (24th), Honululu (27th), San Francisco (29th), Boston (36th), Washington DC, Chicago (both 44th), Portland OR (46th), New York City (48th), and Seattle (49th).

Of course, there are some caveats connected with this list. For one thing, as stated on the MHR website, one may distinguish between "quality of living", and "quality of life":

A city with a high quality of living index is a safe and stable one, but it may be lacking the dynamic je ne sais quoi that makes people want to live in world-renowned cities such as Paris, Tokyo, London or New York. [..] What makes one person's quality of life better or worse cannot be quantified in an objective index. Therefore, Mercer's quality of living report reflects only the tangible aspects of living in a city on expatriate assignments, and leaves the question of the quality of one's life to those living it!

The second point is that you may wonder about the error bars attached to the index. I didn't see this discussed anywhere on the website, and I wonder how reliable the decimals of the index as stated in the list can be. Moreover, you may naively expect that the the index shows some Gaussian, bell-shaped distribution - I was surprised that this is not the case, and that it is nearly flat:

Now, of course, the top 50 cities are the upper end of the distribution of 215 cities (unfortunately, I could not find the complete data set) but I would have expected a different picture, and a smoother distribution with a clearer decrease with increasing index. And from this distribution, I would estimate the error in the index on the order of at least 1 point.

But even with such an error, it is quite safe to group Frankfurt among the top ten cities or so - and that's nice!



  1. Good to know I technically live in the top 7th quality city, and practically live in the top seventh intelligence city...

  2. The index is normalized for New York City

    ah, of course - the greatest city of the planet that mirrors the image of the cosmos in its endless diversity and variety

  3. Oddly, Germany ranks number 21 in The Economist Quality of Life Index, however Switzerland is number 2 (with Ireland number 1). There are a number of Quality of Life measures, though. Another facet I noticed in this list is that two on the list (Geneva and Zurich) are among the most expensive cities in the world to live, according to Mercer's Cost of Living index.

  4. "Oddly, Germany ranks number 21.. "

    Why odd? East Germany is very poor.

    "Another facet I noticed in this list is that two on the list (Geneva and Zurich) are among the most expensive cities in the world to live,"

    So what ... according to a recent (other) study, the time one needs to work for a given standard package is among the shortest in the world, given the local salaries. I am sure that's an important factor in this ranking.

  5. yeah, I was about to remark the same. Switzerland is extremely expensive, but one earns accordingly. if you live there, I tend to believe it is indeed 'high quality' (at least the chocolate ;-)

  6. Hi Sabine,
    Do you really believe Calgary has higher quality of living than any city in USA? I mean, seriously...
    It is a godforsaken hole where you cannot get out of your home 9 months a year because of cold weather. I just find these rankings hard to believe..

  7. Hi Ali,

    no idea, never been in Calgary. But I don't see why 'quality of living' is a priori in conflict with 'godforsaken'. Always look on the bright side: you don't get out of your house, you don't get run over by a bus. Keeping cold conserves, so you stay young. Lack of sunshine reduces skin cancer risk, etc etc.

    But yes, I keep it with Churchill: Don't trust any statistics you didn't fake yourself ;-)



    PS: The question is as always, how appropriate is the measure for 'quality of living'. For more statistics about living in the US, see also The National Data Book

  8. Hi Anonymous,

    East Germany is very poor.

    'very poor' is a very relative statement. I guess a major factor is the high unemployment rate and population density. But regarding the Economist's Index, I too find it somewhat odd. E.g. I have always found France, Germany and Italy have about the same standard of living (okay, food is better in France, wine is better in Italy, but Germany scores with beer). And how come the UK ranks almost equal to south Korea?



  9. "France, Germany and Italy have about the same standard of living "

    No they do not (otherwise I would consider staying in Italy). The infrastructure is hopelessly broken in Italy, for one thing, and for all things technical in daily life they are at least 10-15 years behind France and Germany, for another thing, and France's GDP is higher (and living expenses in both France and Germany is usually less than Italy), for a third thing.

  10. hmmm, maybe - I rely on the expert :-) I have only been in Italy for vacation, I guess things look just nicer then. that makes the Economist's rating even more confusing.

  11. The Economist ranking does make sense. Both Italy and Spain have deep social networks. In Italy, the social and familial (especially familial) support is critical to navigate through the broken daily life things. If you have that, then your life can go (relatively) smoothly. I'll say more about this when I write that (soon I hope) post that Clifford is waiting for because there are some things I would like to describe regarding the necessary role that the families play for science running in Italy. They are really important.

  12. Hi Amara,

    Oddly, Germany ranks number 21 in The Economist Quality of Life Index

    hm, this Mercer Index is explicitly for single cities, and I guess that may be one explanation for this discrepancy. Since Germany is quite big and has indeed some regions which have to struggle with high unemployment rates and a poor economic situation - not only in the East, but also, for example, in the old coal&steel regions in the West, that may have an impact in the overall index for the country in contrast to rich cities like Frankfurt or Munich.

    Hi Ali,

    Do you really believe Calgary has higher quality of living than any city in USA? I mean, seriously... It is a godforsaken hole where you cannot get out of your home 9 months a year because of cold weather.

    I haven't been in Calgary either, but I guess your remark may be an excelent case in point for this difference between "quality of living" and "quality of life" the Mercer people are mentioning ;-)

    Best, stefan

  13. Stefan: I understood about the difference between country and city indexes, but I didn't think the discrepancies could be that large between the German cities. I've spent alot of time in Berlin and Potsdam when I was living in Heidelberg, but probably those are not representative either. I guess I didn't stop often enough on my train trips, and should have taken that Rhein bicycle trip that I always told myself I was going to take.

    Now I feel stupid: I only learned today that Luxembourg has its own language (Luxembourgish).

  14. I've lived in Frankfurt for some time and in comparison to other cities in the world where I've also lived in the USA, Canada and Australia, it should be ranked very low. Unfortunately people aren't taken into account in the survey.


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