What makes cities livable? Determinants of neighborhood satisfaction and neighborhood happiness in different contexts

Through using neighbourhood satisfaction and neighbourhood happiness as measures of urban liveability, this article discusses what determinants make cities liveable. The study draws on geospatial and survey data from two cities Thessaloniki, Greece and Oslo, Norway to examine the research problem.

Date added 10 December 2021
Last updated 10 December 2021

*This resource is about urban liveability. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to the appearance, liveable, recreational space and safety/crime priorities for High Street vitality and viability*.

Through using neighbourhood satisfaction and neighbourhood happiness as measures of urban liveability, this article discusses what determinants make cities liveable. The study draws on geospatial and survey data from two cities Thessaloniki, Greece and Oslo, Norway to examine the research problem. The two research questions the study set out to examine were (p. 2):

  1. How could the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and urban liveability at a neighbourhood scale be analysed based on theoretical considerations?
  2. What are the similarities and differences in the determinants of neighbourhood satisfaction and neighbourhood happiness in Thessaloniki and Oslo?

The study first conducted a literature review and found that the discourse on urban liveability on a neighbourhood scale are centred around three key critiques (p. 3):

  1. The lack of comparative analyses between different contexts
  2. The lack of theory-driven analyses
  3. The lack of comparisons between determinants of neighbourhood satisfaction and neighbourhood happiness.

Second, the survey conducted in the two cities prompted respondents to think of their local area as within 15 minutes walking distance from their dwelling. In addition to the measures of urban liveability, the survey also asked questions around perceived neighbourhood characteristics, physical neighbourhood characteristics and socio-demographic variables.

Key findings showed that the proximity to city centre, neighbourhood perceived safety, and neighbourhood attachment were all common determinants of neighbourhood satisfaction. It also identified that determinants of neighbourhood happiness were frequently pointed out to be neighbourhood perceived safety, neighbourhood perceived quietness, neighbourhood social cohesion, neighbourhood attachment, and lower neighbourhood density. Some interesting differences were identified between the two cities such as how in Thessaloniki, amenities positively contributed to urban liveability, but negatively in Oslo; however, other characteristics that appeared more important to citizens in Oslo were social cohesion, parks and trees.

The study concludes that the findings can contribute to planning and policy as they suggest that urban environments that promote safety, lack of noise, place identity and place attachment, and local social connections can provide improved liveability at a neighbourhood scale.