Cities of Choice: Are People Happy Where They Live?
Residents’ satisfaction is becoming an imperative for city leaders. A BCG survey across 79 cities worldwide finds that people who are unhappy are likely to move, while those who are happy tend to stay. In addition, technology is not only enabling more people to work remotely but also making relocating easier than ever.
To sustain and grow their city—to motivate current residents to stay and attract new ones—it's critical for leaders to determine residents’ level of happiness and the factors that affect their satisfaction. Fifty percent of survey respondents said that they have relocated to another city at some point.
To help leaders delve into the nuances of subjective well-being, we identified 171 factors that affect a city’s economic opportunities, quality of life, social capital, interactions with authorities, and speed of change. We then surveyed more than 50,000 residents worldwide across 79 cities that were grouped into four categories—megacenters, cruiser weights, middleweights, and developing cities.
The results provide important insights:
• Middleweight cities performed the best as a group, standing out for their quality of life.
• The high degree of uncertainty brought about by the pandemic undermined residents’ support for their city and trust in its administration. Only eight cities received higher ratings from their residents in 2022 than they did in 2021.
• More than half of all surveyed residents have a desire or plans to move to another city.
• Large cities compete not only with each other to offer the highest quality of life but also with rural areas and small towns. Large cities, however, still maintain a scale advantage to provide best-in-class services to residents.
• The speed of change plays a critical role in the subjective well-being of residents. It reflects the operating efficiency of city administrations and conveys to residents how quickly city leaders are accelerating changes for a better life.
• Having a robust urban mobility system is critical for residents’ support, but the criteria for mobility changes quickly. Leaders in this area are European cities with an extensive subway system and a high availability of alternative transportation modes.
• Megacenters’ multifunctional status as political, economic, cultural, financial, or religious capitals creates additional pressures and makes the job of city leaders more difficult.
Resident centricity needs to be the mantra for city leaders. But they should also understand the types of residents in their city, assess which types fit with the city’s vision, and determine how their city compares with others that have a similar socioeconomic profile. Then leaders can begin to build on their strengths, address their weaknesses, and transform their city.