New cities report asks – are people happy where they live?


A new Boston Consulting Group report provides some important insights into the factors that drive people’s choices about where to live.

A Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey of more than 50,000 residents across 79 cities worldwide finds that 48% are considering moving. Improvements in technology and transportation are making relocating easier than ever. Satisfaction with their city is key to whether people move or stay. In fact, people who relocate may move to several cities before finding one to call home.

The BCG report, Cities of Choice: Are People Happy Where They Live?, provides important insights into the factors that drive people’s choices about where to live. It also delves into what city leaders and stakeholders can do to retain their current residents and attract new ones as the world emerges from the long shadow of the Covid pandemic.

In developing the report, BCG drew on surveys of more than 50,000 people in 79 cities around the world. Participants’ survey responses were assessed using more than 150 economic, social, and political metrics and indicators across five dimensions, including economic opportunities and quality of life and 26 subdimensions, such as safety, housing, and the ability to influence events.

BCG then combined these objective metrics of city performance with survey data that captures residents’ assessments of what they want from their communities and how well their expectations are being satisfied. The report shows how global cities stack up.

City leaders need to know what makes residents happy

According to the report, to retain current residents and attract new ones, city leaders must understand not only their residents’ priorities but also the types of residents in their city. Leaders also need to assess which resident types fit with the city’s vision and how their city compares with others that have a similar socioeconomic profile.

Writing in an introduction to the report, Vladislav Boutenko, managing director and senior partner at BCG, says: “People are relocating on a massive scale. Remote working technologies adopted during the Covid pandemic established a new modus operandi for millions of people. The office – once the main factor that determined where people lived – is now less important.”

The report also reveals that the rise of remote working is not the only driver for people wanting to relocate. “Although the shift to working remotely was a major and pervasive change, it was not the only impetus for relocating,” says Boutenko. “The number of people who speak more than one language has grown. Moving has become routine in more societies and technology has made relocating easier than ever – whether people want to move across town or across the world,” Boutenko says.

The challenge for city leaders, says the report, is to determine what makes their residents happy so that they can retain current residents and attract new ones. What policies and actions do they need to implement to maintain and improve residents’ satisfaction?

“Before leaders can address that question, they need to delve into the nuances of how their city works – or doesn’t work,” says Boutenko. “It’s not enough to determine that they need to improve residents’ quality of life, for example. Leaders must drill down to determine if that means making it easier to start a business, extending subway hours, adding more bike lanes, improving the city’s fiscal health, revitalising public parks, or hosting more sporting events.

“People have changed – and cities must too,” Boutenko says.

Click here to download the report, Cities of Choice: Are People Happy Where They Live?