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On the measurement of cities

Edwin Heathcote reporting on livable vs. lovable cities in the FT:

The most recent surveys, from Monocle magazine, Forbes, Mercer and The Economist, concur: Vancouver, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen and Munich dominate the top. What, you might ask, no New York? No London? No LA or HK? None of the cities that people seem to actually want to emigrate to, to set up businesses in? To be in? None of the wealthiest, flashiest, fastest or most beautiful cities? Nope. Americans in particular seem to get wound up by the lack of US cities in the top tier. The one that does make it is Pittsburgh. Which winds them up even more.


Joel Garreau, the US urban academic and author, agrees. “These lists are journalistic catnip. Fun to read and look at the pictures but I find the liveable cities lists intellectually on a par with People magazine’s ‘sexiest people’ lists.”

Lesson: livable is not “alive”, vibrant and full of potential! I totally agree with the reporter on the issue of livability… rankings essentially reveal the distance of the ranked objects from the top object in the list based on arbitrarily established dimensions. There is a lot of subjectivity and value judgements about the criteria that push cities closer to the top. Sort of like the idea that the human development index shows how Scandinavian a country is…

Posted in Urbanization.