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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Politics

Which Countries are the Most Polarized?

This chart plots polarization for various countries based on the Edelman Trust Institute’s annual survey of 32,000+ people.

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Which Countries are the Most Polarized?

How do you measure something that’s made headlines for half a decade but is still difficult to quantify? We’re talking about polarization.

Even within the social sciences, polarization covers everything from racial segregation, to labor skill levels, to class divide, to political ideology.

How Do You Quantify Polarization?

Edelman’s data on which countries are the most polarized comes from survey results asking respondents two very simple questions:

  • How divided is their country?
  • How entrenched is the divide?

The questions help bring to light the social issues a particular country is facing and the lack of consensus on those issues.

Plotted against each other, a chart emerges. A country in the top–right corner of the chart is “severely polarized.” Countries located closer to the lower–left are considered less polarized.

In the report, Edelman identifies four metrics to watch for and measure which help quantify polarization.

Economic AnxietiesWill my family be better off in five years?
Institutional ImbalanceGovernment is viewed as unethical and incompetent.
Class DividePeople with higher incomes have a higher trust in institutions.
Battle for TruthEcho chambers, and a low trust in media.

Following Edelman’s metrics, countries with economic uncertainty and inequality as well as institutional distrust are more likely to be polarized. Below, we look at key highlights from the chart.

Severely Polarized Countries

Despite being one of the largest economies in Latin America, Argentina is the most polarized country surveyed by a large margin. Foreign loan defaults, a high fiscal deficit, and now surging inflation have created a perfect storm in the country.

43% of the Argentinian respondents said they will be better off in five years, down 17 percentage points from last year.

Along with fiscal upheaval, Argentinians are also dealing with enduring corruption in the public sector and abrupt policy reversals between governments. Only 20% of those surveyed in Argentina said they trusted the government—the least of all surveyed countries.

Here are all six of the countries considered to be severely polarized:

    🇦🇷 Argentina
    🇨🇴 Colombia
    🇺🇸 United States
    🇿🇦 South Africa
    🇪🇸 Spain
    🇸🇪 Sweden

In the U.S., heightened political upheaval between Democrats and Republicans over the last few years has led to strengthening ideological stances and to an abundance of headlines about polarization. Only 42% of respondents in the country trust the government.

And in South Africa, persistent inequality and falling trust in the African National Congress also check off Edelman’s metrics. It’s also second after Argentina with the least trust in government (22%) per the survey.

Moderately Polarized Countries

The biggest cluster of 15 countries are in moderately polarized section of the chart, with all continents represented.

    🇧🇷 Brazil
    🇰🇷 South Korea
    🇲🇽 Mexico
    🇫🇷 France
    🇬🇧 United Kingdom
    🇯🇵 Japan
    🇳🇱 Netherlands
    🇮🇹 Italy
    🇩🇪 Germany
    🇳🇬 Nigeria
    🇹🇭 Thailand
    🇰🇪 Kenya
    🇨🇦 Canada
    🇦🇺 Australia
    🇮🇪 Ireland

Some are on the cusp of being severely polarized, including economic heavyweights like Japan, the UK, France, and Germany. On the other hand, smaller economies like Thailand, Kenya, and Nigeria, are doing comparatively better on the polarization chart.

Less Polarized Countries

Countries with fair economic outlook and high trust in institutions including China, Singapore, and India are in the bottom left sector of the chart.

    🇮🇩 Indonesia
    🇨🇳 China
    🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates
    🇸🇬 Singapore
    🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
    🇲🇾 Malaysia
    🇮🇳 India

It’s interesting to note that of the seven countries in that sector, three are not democracies. That said, there are also more developing countries on this list as well, which could also be a factor.

Looking Ahead

Edelman notes that polarization is both “cause and consequence of distrust,” creating a self-fulfilling cycle. Aside from the four metrics stated above, concerns about the erosion of civility and weakening social fabric also lead to polarization.

Edelman polarization quote

As global events unfold in 2023—including looming worries of a recession—it will be fascinating to see how countries might switch positions in the year to come.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer

Data note: Survey conducted: Nov 1 – Nov 28, 2022. Survey included 32,000+ respondents in 28 countries. Russia was omitted from this year’s survey. See page 2 of the report for more details.

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