Does a City's Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?
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Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

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Open the large interactive version here comparing population size to quality of life in 200 cities worldwide

Open the large interactive version here comparing population size to quality of life in 200 cities worldwide

Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

City living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—the world’s most populous cities especially can be hectic, noisy, and busy.

Yet, despite the chaos of urban life, cities offer inhabitants a number of comforts and conveniences that are harder to find in smaller towns. That’s why more people are moving into urban areas around the world.

But do these conveniences reflect in people’s quality of lives?

According to research compiled by Elaine Siu, bigger doesn’t always mean better—at least when it comes to population size. This interactive visualization takes a deep dive into this dataset.

Measuring Quality of Life

Siu uses data from Numbeo’s 2022 Quality of Life Index to compare the quality of life in nearly 200 different cities around the world. For the purposes of this research, Siu used cities with metropolitan area populations of over 500,000.

The index measures quality of life using eight different metrics:

  • Cost of Living
  • Purchasing Power
  • Property Price to Income Ratio
  • Pollution
  • Traffic Commute Time
  • Safety
  • Healthcare
  • Climate

A majority of the metrics (six of the eight) seemed to correlate with population size, suggesting that the bigger a city’s population is, the lower its quality of life in those metrics.

Here’s a look at the full list of cities included in the study, along with their overall quality of life scores and their metro area populations:

CityQuality of Life IndexMetro Area Population
Adelaide, Australia212.141,355,522
The Hague (Den Haag), Netherlands204.88709,388
Perth, Australia198.372,092,649
Zurich, Switzerland198.141,419,621
Basel, Switzerland197.58566,503
Brisbane, Australia196.062,472,222
Charlotte, NC, United States194.312,701,046
Seattle, WA, United States194.34,018,762
Oklahoma City, OK, United States192.791,441,647
Austin, TX, United States192.562,352,426
Geneva, Switzerland192.15626,618
Quebec City, Canada192.11837,814
Columbus, OH, United States191.342,151,017
San Diego, CA, United States188.183,286,069
San Antonio, TX, United States188.142,601,788
Copenhagen, Denmark187.891,370,131
San Jose, CA, United States187.161,952,185
Edinburgh, United Kingdom185.01548,206
Sydney, Australia184.525,056,571
Melbourne, Australia183.065,150,766
Kansas City, MO, United States181.282,199,490
Albuquerque, NM, United States181.09918,259
Helsinki, Finland180.211,327,762
Vienna, Austria180.011,960,023
Glasgow, United Kingdom179.791,688,907
Gothenburg, Sweden179.12624,780
Dubai, United Arab Emirates178.962,964,382
Calgary, Canada178.341,611,475
Amsterdam, Netherlands178.171,165,898
Ottawa, Canada177.091,422,635
Portland, OR, United States176.922,511,612
Dallas, TX, United States175.717,759,615
Jacksonville, FL, United States175.251,637,666
Munich, Germany174.981,566,128
Boston, MA, United States174.524,899,932
Muscat, Oman174.071,622,620
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates173.131,539,830
Frankfurt, Germany173.06791,232
Vancouver, Canada172.662,631,690
Stuttgart, Germany172634,740
Rotterdam, Netherlands171.721,014,675
Milwaukee, WI, United States171.441,566,487
Edmonton, Canada171.231,518,921
Indianapolis, IN, United States171.22,126,804
Houston, TX, United States170.97,206,841
Valencia, Spain170.88836,857
Tucson, AZ, United States168.761,052,030
Denver, CO, United States167.362,972,566
Hamburg, Germany166.711,788,170
Vilnius, Lithuania165.74540,775
Oslo, Norway164.941,071,062
Nashville, TN, United States164.872,012,476
Bristol, United Kingdom164.74700,630
Atlanta, GA, United States163.996,144,050
Berlin, Germany163.743,570,750
Sacramento, CA, United States163.542,411,428
Washington, DC, United States162.886,356,434
Queretaro, Mexico162.061,389,302
Stockholm, Sweden161.541,679,050
Auckland, New Zealand1611,652,341
Cologne, Germany160.821,136,992
Baltimore, MD, United States160.362,838,327
Tokyo, Japan160.2737,274,000
Belfast, United Kingdom159.26638,717
Prague, Czech Republic158.871,318,085
San Francisco, CA, United States157.574,623,264
Zagreb, Croatia157.5684,254
Madrid, Spain157.336,713,557
Porto, Portugal157.261,320,347
Antwerp, Belgium155.31,052,622
Toronto, Canada155.026,312,974
Singapore, Singapore154.546,039,577
Philadelphia, PA, United States154.136,228,601
Montreal, Canada153.764,276,526
Doha, Qatar153.1651,799
Phoenix, AZ, United States151.954,946,145
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia150.727,538,200
Lisbon, Portugal150.092,986,162
Birmingham, United Kingdom149.322,645,598
Manama, Bahrain148.96688,558
Lyon, France148.341,747,575
Las Vegas, NV, United States148.172,292,476
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel147.844,343,584
Manchester, United Kingdom147.472,770,434
Riga, Latvia145.54624,925
Bursa, Turkey145.272,054,748
Cape Town, South Africa145.054,800,954
Chicago, IL, United States144.819,509,934
Jeddah (Jiddah), Saudi Arabia144.44,780,740
Barcelona, Spain143.735,658,472
Brussels, Belgium143.122,109,631
Genoa, Italy142.82675,464
Coimbatore, India142.772,934,621
Hamilton, Canada142.74775,751
Bangalore, India141.6713,193,035
Dublin, Ireland140.931,255,963
Curitiba, Brazil140.073,770,919
Los Angeles, CA, United States139.7512,997,353
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia139.251,252,917
Durban, South Africa139.093,199,329
Islamabad, Pakistan1391,198,035
Bologna, Italy139811,707
Pune, India138.286,987,077
Taipei, Taiwan137.812,742,379
New York, NY, United States137.3219,768,458
Brasilia, Brazil135.444,803,877
Winnipeg, Canada133.69832,944
Pretoria, South Africa133.252,739,768
Warsaw, Poland133.211,794,532
Detroit, MI, United States133.054,365,205
Johannesburg, South Africa132.586,065,354
Izmir, Turkey131.523,056,149
Turin, Italy131.351,798,471
Lviv, Ukraine129.85721,383
Poznan, Poland129.38525,919
Wroclaw, Poland128.45642,497
Guadalajara, Mexico128.145,339,583
Chiang Mai, Thailand127.811,197,931
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates127.771,785,684
Budapest, Hungary127.231,775,207
Ankara, Turkey126.935,309,690
London, United Kingdom126.149,540,576
Monterrey, Mexico125.765,036,535
Campinas, Brazil125.753,384,564
Seoul, South Korea125.669,975,709
Lodz, Poland124666,032
Krakow (Cracow), Poland123.44769,595
Paris, France123.0211,142,303
Sofia, Bulgaria122.031,286,789
Medellin, Colombia121.784,067,758
Montevideo, Uruguay119.581,767,243
Yerevan, Armenia119.461,092,028
San Juan, Puerto Rico118.972,442,512
Florianopolis, Brazil118.921,277,547
Milan, Italy118.573,149,223
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia117.78,419,566
Bucharest, Romania117.581,785,294
Kuwait City, Kuwait116.643,238,523
Athens, Greece115.693,153,781
Quito, Ecuador115.331,928,296
Thessaloniki, Greece115.32813,793
San Jose, Costa Rica115.021,441,324
Chennai, India114.5111,503,293
Amman, Jordan114.372,209,584
Ahmedabad, India113.048,450,228
Hyderabad, India112.5310,534,418
Tbilisi, Georgia112.191,080,349
Panama City, Panama110.941,937,963
Rome, Italy109.984,297,877
Belgrade, Serbia109.821,405,192
Kharkiv, Ukraine109.511,423,343
Shenzhen, China109.1112,831,330
Baku, Azerbaijan109.12,401,108
Moscow, Russia108.3212,640,818
Minsk, Belarus107.792,048,574
Porto Alegre, Brazil107.744,185,488
Belo Horizonte, Brazil107.26,194,292
Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine106.883,010,209
Odessa (Odesa), Ukraine106.411,007,989
Lahore, Pakistan106.0113,541,764
Hong Kong, Hong Kong103.857,643,256
Santiago, Chile103.16,856,939
Skopje, North Macedonia101.02605,996
Kolkata, India99.3715,133,888
Buenos Aires, Argentina99.2315,369,919
Saint Petersburg, Russia97.915,535,556
Dnipro, Ukraine97.76946,574
Istanbul, Turkey96.1315,636,243
Guatemala City, Guatemala95.463,036,405
Yekaterinburg, Russia94.291,521,136
Hanoi, Vietnam93.755,067,352
Mumbai, India89.3920,961,472
Bogota, Colombia88.2711,344,312
Tirana, Albania88.09511,559
Mexico City, Mexico85.9422,085,140
Almaty, Kazakhstan84.531,958,135
Recife, Brazil83.224,220,458
Nairobi, Kenya81.755,118,844
Novosibirsk, Russia81.711,686,236
Cairo, Egypt81.621,750,020
Karachi, Pakistan79.9116,839,950
Bangkok, Thailand79.7410,899,698
Sao Paulo, Brazil78.5422,429,800
Kathmandu, Nepal78.081,521,057
Lima, Peru77.6711,044,607
Delhi, India77.2732,065,760
Shanghai, China76.6228,516,904
Jakarta, Indonesia74.1311,074,811
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil70.2813,634,274
Caracas, Venezuela69.322,956,813
Colombo, Sri Lanka66.85625,637
Beirut, Lebanon66.542,433,155
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam66.419,077,158
Beijing, China58.9621,333,332
Tehran, Iran56.289,381,546
Dhaka, Bangladesh56.1822,478,116
Lagos, Nigeria48.2215,387,639
Manila, Philippines46.0814,406,059

It’s worth noting that the negative correlation between the quality of life and population size only appeared in cities above the median population of 2.4 million people, indicating that the size of a city doesn’t appear to impact quality of life until a certain tipping point. Then, above the median, there’s a blatant downward trend.

However, Tokyo is an anomaly—its quality of life is much higher than it’s metropolitan population would predict.

Zooming in on Tokyo

Despite being the world’s largest urban area, Tokyo compares favorably compared to other top megacities across the index. When ranked among the top five megacities, it places in first for Purchasing Power, Safety, Traffic Commute Time, Cost of Living, Healthcare, and Pollution.

What’s so special about Tokyo? One major thing going for the Japanese city is its immaculate public transport system. The city’s transport is so efficient, the city’s rail service once issued a public apology after a train left the station 25 seconds earlier than its scheduled departure.

Another factor that makes Tokyo so livable is its relatively affordable housing, at least compared to other big cities like New York and Hong Kong. This is partly because of the city’s flexible land zoning system, which makes it relatively easy for developers to build housing and mix-use communities.

As our world becomes increasingly more urbanized, and cities around the world continue to increase in size, will they be able to emulate Tokyo’s growth? And if not, what other city design trends and innovations can cities utilize to raise quality of live?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants

Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.

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countries with the highest proportion of immigrants

Countries with the Highest Proportion of Immigrants

For people living in cosmopolitan urban centers, it’s easy to overestimate the prevalence of immigrants around the world.

The median proportion of foreign-born people in all countries is just over 5%. In countries with a population greater than one million, only four are majority foreign-born, and only eight surpass the one-third mark.

Here are the top 20 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates88%
🇶🇦 Qatar77%
🇰🇼 Kuwait73%
🇧🇭 Bahrain55%
🇴🇲 Oman46%
🇸🇬 Singapore43%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia39%
🇯🇴 Jordan34%
🇦🇺 Australia30%
🇨🇭 Switzerland29%
🇳🇿 New Zealand29%
🇱🇧 Lebanon25%
🇮🇱 Israel23%
🇨🇦 Canada21%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan20%
🇸🇪 Sweden20%
🇦🇹 Austria19%
🇩🇪 Germany19%
🇬🇦 Gabon19%
🇮🇪 Ireland18%

Source: UN via World Population Review. Note: Only countries with a population of greater than one million are included.

The United Arab Emirates comes out on top for the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. Impressively, the small Middle Eastern nation ranks sixth in the world for total immigrant population (8.7 million people).

Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula also rank at the top of this list. In Qatar, current host of the 2022 World Cup, 3-in-4 people are immigrants. The high proportion of foreign workers in the country also results in an extreme demographic skew—approximately 75% of the population of Qatar is male.

The one extreme outlier in the region is war-torn Yemen, where only 1.3% of the population are immigrants.

Outside the Middle East, Singapore (43%) takes top spot, followed by Australia (30%).

Spotlight on U.S. Immigration

Although the United States is outside the top 20, it still has by far the most immigrants of any other country (50 million vs. 16 million in second-place Germany).

About 15% of people in the U.S. are immigrants—numbers which are comparable to the historic high in the late 19th century. The proportion of foreign-born people in the country has been on the rise since the 1970s, and is projected to continue rising in coming decades. Around 2030, immigration is expected to surpass natural increases as a driver of population growth.

Countries with the Lowest Proportion of Immigrants

A few countries are magnets for immigration, while a great many more receive very little immigration. This can simply be due to lack of demand, or because of more extreme circumstances such as war or a failing economy. In other cases, immigration policies may limit the number of people who can migrate to a country.

Here are the top 20 countries with the lowest proportion of immigrants in their populations:

CountryImmigrants as a percentage of population
🇨🇺 Cuba0.03%
🇨🇳 China0.07%
🇻🇳 Vietnam0.08%
🇮🇩 Indonesia0.13%
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.13%
🇲🇲 Myanmar0.14%
🇭🇹 Haiti0.17%
🇰🇵 North Korea0.19%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.19%
🇵🇭 Philippines0.21%
🇲🇦 Morocco0.28%
🇮🇳 India0.35%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.35%
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.37%
🇸🇴 Somalia0.37%
🇪🇷 Eritrea0.39%
🇭🇳 Honduras0.40%
🇬🇹 Guatemala0.47%
🇰🇭 Cambodia0.47%
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.51%

Cuba has the lowest level of foreign-born people in its population. The Caribbean nation makes it very difficult for foreign nationals obtain permanent residency.

China comes in second last. In absolute terms, the million or so immigrants living in China may sound like a lot, but pales in comparison to the overall population of 1.4 billion.

Interestingly, Japan–which is the poster child for low immigration–isn’t on the list above. The country’s foreign-born population sits at just over 2%.

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Demographics

Ranked: Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations

Which brands win the most with Gen Z compared to older generations? From TikTok to Capri Sun, this ranking looks at Gen Z’s favorite brands.

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Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations

Generation Z’s favorite brands, in absolute terms, aren’t wildly different from preferences of other generations, with Walmart, Google, and Netflix ranking high. But when it comes to the brands that do the best with Gen Z compared to their elders, the list shakes up dramatically.

This ranking uses consumer preference data from Morning Consult to show which brands are favored considerably more by Gen Z when compared to the general public. A brand’s rank is determined by the difference in favorability between Gen Z’s survey responses and the average of all U.S. adult respondents.

Note: Gen Z is the generation born between 1997-2012. Favorability in this ranking is measured using the share of a generation who said they have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of said brand.

Brands Preferred by Gen Z

Compared to Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers, who may not care as much for these 20 brands, Gen Z—currently between 9-25 years old—loves them. Let’s dive in:

RankBrandFavorability Difference U.S. Adult FavorabilityGen Z Favorability
#1TikTok+3039%69%
#2Discord+2921%50%
#3Snapchat+2935%64%
#4Instagram+2548%73%
#5Cash App+2541%66%
#6Spotify+2347%70%
#7Shein+2222%44%
#8Trolli+2124%45%
#9Twitch+2121%42%
#10Apple Pay+2039%59%
#11DoorDash+18.746.7%65.5%
#12Fenty Beauty+18.617.1%35.7%
#13Reddit+17.833.0%50.7%
#14Twitter+17.333.7%50.9%
#15Epic Games+17.124.9%42.0%
#16Roblox+16.822.0%38.7%
#17Vans+16.551.7%68.2%
#18Xbox+16.448.4%64.8%
#19Capri Sun+16.260.4%76.6%
#20PlayStation+15.956.4%72.2%

Note: Differences may not add up exactly due to rounding.

Unsurprisingly, TikTok takes the top spot. The app that is frequently used to poke fun at older generations and that in many ways is a reflection of Gen Z culture, is 30 points more favorable with the young generation than others.

Members of Gen Z are the first true “digital natives”—meaning they were raised in the age of digital technology. As a result, many of their favorite brands are either some kind of social media platform and/or digital service, like Apple Pay, Snapchat, or Spotify. In fact, eight of Gen Z’s top 10 favorites on the above list are digital brands.

Another distinguishing feature of consumers in this generation is that they’re more likely to care about brand ethics and sustainable consumption than other generations.

However, one brand among their top 20 that defies that sentiment is the Chinese clothing company, Shein. This fast fashion company’s model promotes a culture of mass clothing hauls and thus, clothing waste—making it far from environmentally conscious. Shein has also come under fire recently for violating labor laws in its Chinese production facilities. And yet 44% of Gen Zs have a good impression of the brand, and it particularly does well with Gen Z women.

Interestingly, members of Gen Z in the U.S. are also the first cohort to have strong awareness of Chinese brands more generally.

Gen Z vs. Millennials

Two generations that are often lumped together, Gen Z and Millennials have some considerable differences when it comes to their favorite brands. Here’s a brief look at some of the brands that do better with Gen Z compared to Millennials specifically, using favorability difference:

  • TikTok: 14.2
  • Crocs: 13.4
  • Pixar: 8.1
  • Morphe: 6.1

Compared to their generational neighbors, one interesting standout is Crocs—the utilitarian, but highly-customizable foam clogs—which almost 60% of Gen Zs see as favorable compared to only 46% of Millennials.

Gen Z’s Favorite Brands Overall

While Gen Z differentiates itself from the older generations in many ways, a lot of the overall favorites still align with everyone else’s.

RankBrandFavorability
#1YouTube86.2%
#2Google83.9%
#3Netflix82.2%
#4Amazon80.3%
#5M&Ms79.8%
#6Walmart79.8%
#7Target79.7%
#8Doritos79.3%
#9Kit Kat79.0%
#10Oreo78.6%
#11Gatorade78.5%
#12Nike78.4%
#13Cheetos77.5%
#14Dollar Tree77.4%
#15Sprite77.4%
#16Pringles76.7%
#17Capri Sun 76.6%
#18Pixar76.6%
#19Skittles76.3%
#20Apple75.9%

Removing the favorability difference score reveals that many of the most popular brands overall still win out, such as Netflix, Google, and Amazon.

Gen Z Trends

Overall, the report found that it’s hard for brands to win with Gen Z. Across all brands that were scored, 33% of the general American public rated them as favorable, but for Gen Z respondents the number dropped to 27%.

In general, Gen Z tends to value conscious consumption and subsequently, brands that can meet those expectations. Digital services and products also do well with this generation that has never known a world without internet.

As more and more Gen Zers enter the labor market and grow their consumer power, they will be an important generation to watch.

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