Urban populations have skyrocketed in the last five years, and much of that growth has come from millennials. But cities aren’t always listening to the opinions of their newest, youngest residents, says to Sonja Miokovic, global director of YouthfulCities (though many cities, in fact, are bending over backwards to attract young people in the first place). That fact inspired the creation of the YouthfulCities Index, a ranking of the world’s cities from the perspective of urban dwellers under the age of 29.
“We believe that we are living in a time of unprecedented opportunity. Youth are at the center of urbanization,” says Miokovic. “They build a city’s competitive edge, stimulate development and find new solutions. They are connectors. They are curious. They are inventive. They are dynamic. They are the future of cities. We also believe that they are the world’s largest untapped resource.”
To build the index, young researchers around the world gathered hard data for 101 indicators across 55 cities. The group separately surveyed over 10,000 young people, asking them to rank what they felt was most important in a city, from the job market to the local music scene, and used those opinions to weight the final index. What the participants said mattered most, out of over 100 factors: safety, affordability, and public transit. The environment followed close behind—though that turned out to be the factor cities are doing the worst job of addressing.
“Environmental sustainability is where we see the biggest gap between what youth want and how cities perform,” Miokovic says. “This is no surprise. It’s a topic that’s hard to ignore.”
Miokovic is working with a network of 50 twenty-somethings from around the world to turn the index into action that can lead to new policy, as well as hosting a hackathon to explore the data further. The group has also started partnering with city planning departments to take action from the data.
Scroll through the slideshow above to see the top-ranked cities for people under 30. Even for the leaders, there’s a long way to go: New York only earned a 60% approval rating.