COVID Dip Sees Home Cities Lose Some of Their Appeal but Largely Retain Their Residents, BCG “Cities of Choice” Reports

  • COVID-19 Impacted Perceptions of Cities: Residents Gave Their Cities Worse Ratings Than Before the Pandemic, but Generally Don't Want to Move
  • Despite COVID-19, Cities Were Able to Roll Back “Large City Diseases”

DUBAI—A decline in how highly residents rated their home cities around the world has not resulted in more people moving out, with fewer than 20% of respondents anticipating relocation to suburbia, and 15% to rural areas, on the heels of the pandemic. While only eight cities out of 70 surveyed received higher ratings from their residents than last year, cities are unlikely to change much following the pandemic, according to a survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The survey was conducted for the second edition of the Cities of Choice global ranking and report that will launch later this year.

Compared with prepandemic ratings, city residents lowered their scores in all areas of quality of life, both those affected by the pandemic (public spaces, health care, education) and those not directly affected by it (housing, transport, cleanliness). At the same time, residents see fewer attractive jobs and career opportunities and report less certainty in professional self-realization.

City residents are also less likely to trust the government and significantly fewer residents believe that over the past three years their life has improved in all areas, despite clear positive change in key areas such as crime, traffic, air pollution, and health systems optimization. The results send a strong signal to city leaders around the world that they need to do more to support their residents emotionally.

Among other changes that are widely expected by cities’ residents is an evolution of the “15-minute city.” Thirty-five percent of respondents expect most of their everyday activities to shift closer to their homes. This does not mean people expect to stay home. "While more than half of respondents expect to switch to partly remote work, fewer than 30% of people expect fully remote to be the new norm following the pandemic,” says BCG Henderson Institute Fellow Vladislav Boutenko.

Another major change that will need to be addressed by city authorities is the exponential growth of e-commerce, with more than 60% of respondents planning to use more online shopping/deliveries leading to a need to facilitate and regulate micro mobility means usually used by couriers (electric bicycles, scooters, and small delivery vehicles).

The second edition of the Cities of Choice global ranking and report, which includes data on 70 cities around the world, will be released in the upcoming months.

A preview with initial findings from the ranking can be downloaded here.

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Anca Webber at +44 (7342) 083718 or webber.anca@bcg.com.

About the Methodology

The overall results for the 70 cities in the ranking are based on scores in five blocks: Quality of life, Economic opportunities, Social capital, Relationships with authorities, and Speed of change. Each block is split into several subdimensions (27 total) that cover all major spheres of the life of a city resident.

Scoring for each sub-dimension is calculated based on a number of indicators (155 indicators total). To ensure objectivity, about 70% are statistical indicators drawn from public or paid sources. The remaining 30% are the result of BCG analysis obtained through global surveying or using our own calculations and modeling (including geo-analytical tools).

The global survey of city residents was conducted in March-May 2020 and in May- September 2021 using an online questionnaire in 70+ cities around the world. A total of 25,000 replies were received in each wave. The sampling structure in each city matched the population structure by gender, age, and income. The questionnaire contained 120 questions, some of which addressed people’s subjective perceptions, while others targeted objective facts about respondents’ lives and behavior (such as frequency of physical activity).

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