After COVID: What is the 2021 City w/ the Greatest Quality of Life in the World?

Quality of life has been in decline in America’s marquee cities for decades, and the coronavirus crisis only threatened to worsen that situation. But with the hopeful reality that the Biden administration’s vaccination programs are decisively moving us beyond the greatest dangers of this long and deadly pandemic, there’s been an unexpected uptick in Stateside urban living, even if it will prove in the long run to have been just temporary.

One consistently telling indicator has been the dearth of American cities showing up on annual global quality of life lists. Surely the most venerated of these is that which is assembled each year by the Economist Intelligence Unit (“intelligence” being the operative word). Of course, the latest, released this week, is the first such report covering a year of living through a worldwide health crisis…ever – and the 2021 EIU Global Liveability Index turns out to reveal some strikingly surprising developments.


Firstly, several US metropolises have shot up in the ranks, with Honolulu soaring from #60 to #14, Houston from #62 to #31, Miami from #52 to #28, and Chicago rising from #49 to #28 (in a tie with Miami). This is seemingly attributed to the past six months of sometimes careful, sometimes careless, and ultimately successful reopening schemes – which just happened to coincide with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris having taken over in the White House (See how well that works?). Los Angeles and New York, as ever, are nowhere to be found, the latter likely looking at a much longer haul to financial recovery, after it had already begun a kind of slow cultural decline over the last decade (though that’s another story).

Markedly, Europe’s quality of life was hardest hit during COVID, its overarching, austere cautiousness having taken a toll on the day to day existence of its collective citizenry – though it’s certainly arguable that for safety’s sake, they shouldn’t have done it any other way. Amongst major EU cities, Frankfurt slumped from #10 to #39, Prague from #45 to #72, Dublin from #29 to #51, and Rome from #36 to #57 – as Italy has particularly struggled through the last sixteen months. Vienna, regularly coming in at #1, also took a considerable slide.


Generally clogging the top ten in recent years have been Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland (which remains outside of the European Union, by the way) and Canada, with the latter altogether disappearing from that distinction in 2021, likely also due to coronavirus austerity measures – though we imagine it will bounce back, as it has long been a paradigm of carefully considered contemporary progressivism. Zurich and Geneva are at #7 and #8, respectively. But the Aussies and the Kiwis are conspicuously dominant: Adelaide at #3, Perth #6, Melbourne #8 (tied with Geneva), Brisbane #10, Wellington #4, and Auckland – topmost image – taking top honors at #1. (Osaka at #2 and Tokyo at #4 round out the victors.)

As is well documented, both Australia and especially New Zealand dispatched with COVID impressively decisively, with the latter’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern literally becoming an international hero.

And since we’re on the subject, who fared the worst? Well, Papua New Guinea’s Port Moresby sits at an ignominious #138, the Nigerian capital of Lagos at #139…and tragically, with the Syrian civil war dragging on into its tenth year, Damascus ranks all the way at the bottom at #140.

Request a copy of the 2021 EIU Global Liveability Index here.




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