The United States is often touted as a beacon of economic freedom, but cities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand topped the rankings as the world's "most liveable," according to new rankings by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
For the fifth straight year, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, bested 139 other cities worldwide in the ratings of "relative comfort," based on five broad categories: infrastructure, education, safety, culture and environment and health care.
Vancouver's top spot was enhanced by its successful hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the report noted. Those high-profile events allowed Vancouver to boost its scores in the infrastructure and culture and environment categories. Only petty crime presents any difficulties for the city, the survey said.
Melbourne, Australia, came in second, followed by Vienna, Austria, in third place. A duo of Canadian cities, Toronto and Calgary, took fourth and fifth, with Helsinki, Finland, at No. 6. Rounding out the top ten were three cities in Australia -- Sydney, Perth and Adelaide -- and Auckland, New Zealand, weighing in at No. 10.
"Mid-sized cities in developed countries with relatively low population densities tend to score well by having all the cultural and infrastructural benefits on offer with fewer problems related to crime or congestion," said Jon Copestake, editor of the report, in a statement.
Pittsburgh, the highest ranking U.S. city, came in at No. 29, a notch ahead of Honolulu, while Los Angeles took No. 44 and New York City was at No. 56. London moved up one spot from last year to No. 53, while Paris came in at No. 16.
Of the "Bottom Ten" cities, Harare, Zimbabwe, was ranked the worst, due largely to the policies of the country's dictator, Robert Mugabe. Despite hopes for elections in 2011, the city's low stability and health care scores highlight a bleak situation there, the report said.
The World's 10 Most Liveable Cities
(as ranked by The Economist Intelligence Unit)
Auckland, New Zealand