Place

The decision of where to be, and it is a decision, is important for a number of reasons. At the professional level, what could be called the industrial fabric of a specific place is fairly stable over a time period of ten to 20 years so. WHat this means is that a certain place might be better than another in terms of working in a specific space. If, for example, you want to work in global financial services, then clearly New York, Hong Kong, or London are the places to be.

Beyond the professional part of our lives, however, there are a number of aspects to living in different locations that we tend to lump under the idea of quality of life. This concept is a bit fuzzy and means different things to different people but is often associated with culture, climate, overall economic well being, social and political issues and a range of topics including the quality of schools, level of crime and personal safety, etc. In this context, I feel it is important that you think through what quality of life means to you and your family if you have one.

Some places have amazing natural beauty and easy access to sports such as hiking, skiing, or sailing. Others have a terrific cultural offering or night life and still others terrific schools and affordable housing not too far from the city center. If you are in your twenties then certain places will appeal to you more than others and if, at a later stage in life, you are looking for a nice place to raise your children, you may come up with a different answer.

Of course increasingly we are becoming more mobile so the whole idea of place is becoming a bit more nuanced as people commute shorter or longer distances, re-locate to other parts of the world, or find work which allows them to live virtually anywhere and digitally connect to their colleagues.

Richard Florida, an American economist, talks about the importance of place and insists that where we live impacts, to a large degree, what we do, where we work, who are life partners are and what kind of future we can offer our children.

Besides determining key aspects of our life, Florida argues that the drivers of the global economy are a limited number of about 50 major cities which are getting richer and richer and pulling away from the communities around them. In his research he has found that people in such places have more to do with others in similar cities, wherever they are located, than with people in other communities in their own countries.

In the United States, places like Seattle, Austin, Boston and New York’s Silicon Alley join Silicon Valley and San Fransisco in leading the digital revolution and other places are important in other fields such as bio-medical research, aerospace, robotics, etc.

Some industries, such as financial services, are focused in certain places such as New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo and if someone wants to “make it” in that field, conventional wisdom will take you to where the action is. The financial capital of Spain, for example is in Madrid and the center for Europe, at least so far, has been London. If someone wants to play in the major league, or first division, in European finance that is where I suggest they go. 

Do you know which cities have the thickest labor markets for the space or spaces you are most interested in? 

Another layer to this issue of quality of life is the overall structure of civil society and the strength of the institutions in a given place. In the United States, there are huge differences between state governments in terms of their approach to taxes, basic social services, and regulations. Similar differences exist at the local level between different cities and towns even in the same region.

While some of these differences have to do with economic forces such as those discussed by Moretti and Florida, others have to do with historical and political trends.

I recommend that you spend some time thinking deeply about what quality of life means to you and if you have a partner or a family then it is definitely important to involve them in the discussion. The thing is that different people value different things and what you value at one point in your life may be different than what is important at another.

Some places for example have amazing natural beauty and easy access to sports such as hiking, skiing, or sailing. Others have a terrific cultural offering or night life and still others terrific schools and affordable housing not too far from the city center. If you are in your twenties then certain places will appeal to you more than others and if, at a later stage in life, you are looking for a nice place to raise your children, you may come up with a different answer.

Another layer to this issue of quality of life is the overall structure of civil society and the strength of the institutions in a given place. In the United States, there are huge differences between state governments in terms of their approach to taxes, basic social services, and regulations. Similar differences exist at the local level between different cities and towns even in the same region.

At the global level there are even sharper differences between different regions and countries around the world. An interesting reference is the Fragile State Index which is published every year by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy.  The index ranks every country on the planet on the basis of the rule of law and the strength of its institutions to determine which countries are at the most risk of becoming a “failed” state.

To explore different spaces, please use the forum section to add your comments to any of the threads that are there or to open a new one about a space you are interested in.