Madrid and Barcelona occupy the top positions in quality of life in Spain, according to the Ivie

Doubling the population size of an urban area would increase the per capita income of its residents by 2.8%

The two large Spanish cities, Madrid and Barcelona, ​​occupy the first positions in a quality of life ranking, although some smaller urban areas, such as Ibiza, Toledo or Guadalajara, stand out in the first places when only certain socioeconomic conditions are taken into account or of health for its inhabitants.

This is the result of a study carried out by Ivie researchers Francisco J. Goerlich and Ernest Reig, in collaboration with technicians Carlos Albert and Juan Carlos Robledo, and presented by the BBVA Foundation, which analyzes up to 73 Functional Urban Areas (AUF) present in the country and formed by urban agglomerations and bordering localities with a population of more than 1,500 inhabitants per square kilometer, with a minimum of 50,000 residents.

Specifically, only five of these AUFs exceed one million inhabitants (Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Seville and Bilbao) by adding, as in the case of Madrid, up to 166 municipalities around, compared to the cases of Lorca or Algeciras that they only add two municipalities. The smallest AUF is Cuenca, which barely exceeds 60,000 inhabitants.This concentration of the population in large urban centers is explained by the contrast experienced by demographic movements in the country during the last century in which the population has multiplied by 2.5, at the same time as 70% of the municipalities They have lost residents.

In this same period of time, a large number of people have moved from the rural to the urban world, which has gone from grouping 50% of the population to 87%, while in rural areas only the remaining 13% has remained. Around a third of the country’s inhabitants now live in the 52 provincial capitals, which have multiplied by almost 5 times their population since the beginning of the last century.


However, according to the study, this concentration generates positive effects in the labor market, in the ability to innovate, in productivity and in the attraction of highly qualified human capital, increasing variables such as income, employment or patent application. and registration of designs or brands.

According to the calculations made by the researchers, doubling the population size of an urban area would increase the per capita income of its residents by 2.8%. In the case of patents, doubling the population leads to an increase in patent registrations of 140%. In the same way, this increase in the population by 100% would lead to an increase of 110% in the population with university studies.

In terms of employment, all 73 areas registered an average annual fall in employment of 2.2% between 2009 and 2013 and a growth of 3.1% between 2013 and 2016, while the average of the 16 most populated AUF they obtained slightly more favorable figures (fall of 2% and growth of 3.3%). Madrid and Barcelona are among the AUFs that showed greater resilience in the recessive phase, but in the recovery phase they were surpassed by smaller areas in which the tourism sector generally had more weight.


Although Madrid and Barcelona occupy the first positions in the set of factors that measure the quality of life, the study has disaggregated the ranking into three main indicators of quality of life: the one of socioeconomic conditions, the one of the conditions of urban environment, and those of health.

The ranking developed with the results corresponding to the first group places Ibiza, Barcelona, ​​San Sebastian, Madrid, Girona and Palma de Mallorca at the head of the Spanish urban system, followed by a group of cities belonging mainly to the Northeast quadrant of the Peninsula, that some tourist towns are added.

In the second group, related to the general conditions of habitability or comfort of the urban environment, the most prominent positions belong to Barcelona and Madrid, although some of the larger cities of the Spanish urban system also stand out (San Sebastián, Sevilla, Bilbao and Valencia), plus two important tourist destinations (Benidorm and Palma de Mallorca) and a series of medium-sized cities in the Basque Country, Navarre and Catalonia. Also Granada, León, Guadalajara and Salamanca appear in good position.