A review of livability measures found that while it is defined inconsistently, there is much overlap in approaches and indicators. Strengthening measurement can advance health-promoting urban design.

For the attention of: Civic data organizations, neighbourhood developers, professionals at intersection of urban design and community health

The problem: Investment in livability is an asset-based intervention that involves community connection, resource enhancement, and opportunity creation. Livability has been studied widely in various fields, including but not limited to urban development, economics, sustainability, and sociology. As a result, there is little consensus about livability measurement, with many different definitions and indicators used. Stronger, standardized measures of livability are needed to translate evidence-based public health recommendations that need cross-sector collaboration for successful implementation.

What we did and why: We conducted a scoping review, searching three databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, and Web of Science) for studies that measured livability. We look at whether they also assessed its measurement properties. Properties such as reliability (the consistency of a measure, or if a tool can measure something in a reproducible manner) and validity (the accuracy of a measure, or its ability to measure what was intended). We assessed how livability is measured to inform the strengthening and standardizing of measurement across sectors.

What our study adds: Studies have been carried out across the globe, with several cross-country analyses or comparisons of global cities. Most studies conducted were in an urban context. There was little consensus across studies on livability definitions. However, measure domains and indicators overlapped significantly. Most studies reported high levels of reliability and found that livability was correlated with similar measures (e.g. place satisfaction, neighborhood safety, and sense of place) and self-reported health and wellbeing.

Implications for city policy and practice: Urban policymakers are increasingly convening around the shared goal of improving livability, in an effort to collaborate more efficiently and effectively across sectors. With this scoping review we cut through the noise of academic jargon.  We break down essential components of measurement science as they apply to the complex, multidimensional concept of livability with the ultimate goal of reframing livability measurement to center the everyday lives of existing residents, amplifying their priorities for future urban policies.

Full research article: Investigating the measurement properties of livability: a scoping review by Nishita Dsouza, Amy Carroll-Scott, Usama Bilal, Irene E. Headen, Rodrigo Reis & Ana P. Martinez-Donate