The Best Countries To Live In

Full disclosure: I am a resident of the United States and have only ever been to Canada.  Once.  I knew my home country wasn’t even going to sniff this list, but for the purposes of being thorough, it was disqualified on the basis of being largely homophobic, racist, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-education, anti-health, and technologically second world.  Thanks for playing United States, you suck.

I started off by selecting the countries that were letter perfect on LGBT rights and then ranked them in a variety of categories.  Perfect onLGBT rights meant the following things:

  • Decriminalization of Homosexuality
  • Full Marriage Equality
  • Full Adoption rights for same sex couples
  • Allowed to serve openly in military
  • Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation banned
  • Discrimination on the basis of gender identity banned
  • Gender change does not require medical or judicial intervention or sterilization

That left me with nine countries that scored a 100: Argentina, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Uruguay.  (For comparison and basing intrastate differences on percentages of population affected, the United States scored a 58.)  I then decided to add the following (fairly objective) criteria to rank them by:

  • Poverty rate
  • Homicide Rate
  • Marijuana Legality
  • Prostitution Legality
  • Internet Speed
  • Cost of Living
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Income Inequality
  • Ethnic, Linguistic, and Religious Diversity
  • Bonuses for being referenced in media as “Most Dog Friendly” or “Most Friendly”

Here is the spreadsheet. First the honorable mentions:



The Good:

Argentina has the lowest cost of living on this list at 70.44 which means that things like rent, food, and various luxuries cost about 70% of the average.  It also scored fairly high on personal freedoms with personal Marijuana use allowed (although cultivation and sales are illegal) and legal prostitution (although brothels are banned).


The Bad:

Pretty much everything else.  It had the highest poverty rate (30%), highest income inequality (UN), worst education system (UN), and slowest internet speed (5.46 Mbps) among countries on this list.  It also had the second worst homicide rate (5.5 per 100,000) and the third worst healthcare system (WHO).  It was also mediocre in terms of diversity scoring 4th in Ethnic Diversity, 9th in Linguistic Diversity, and 6th in Religious Diversity (Alesina and Ferrara).



The Good:

Go to Sweden if you want the fastest internet (42.34 Mbps).  Sweden is also frequently listed as one of the most dog friendly countries in the world.


The Bad:

Poverty is high in Sweden (26.7%) and diversity is low (8th Ethnic, 4th Linguistic, 5th Religious).  The cost of living index (114.47) was second highest and Sweden has made both Marijuana and Prostitution fully illegal.  It’s education and healthcare, while both better than in the US, both rank 6th on this list.



The Good:

Urugual has the second lowest poverty rate on this list at 8.4% and boasts fully legal Marijuana and Prostitution.  Its cost of living index is only 83.14 and its president, Jose Mujica, is also kind of awesome.

President Mujica's Farmhouse

President Mujica’s Farmhouse

The Bad:

Uruguay boasted the highest homicide rate (5.9 per 100,000) and finished last in healthcare, second to last in education, and second to last in income inequality despite the low poverty rate.  It also has middling internet speed at 21.77 Mbps, good for 6th on this list.



The Good:

Norway boasts great education and healthcare, both 2nd on this list, and an incredibly low homicide rate of .6 per 100,000, also second.  It’s poverty rate is the lowest by far at 4.3%.


The Bad:

Norway is expensive and significantly lacking in diversity.  It’s cost of living index is 173.85, by far the highest on this list, and it ranked 9th, 8th, and 8th in Ethnic, Linguistic, and Religious diversity respectively.  Marijuana and Prostitution are fully illegal.

#5 – Iceland


The Good:

The lowest homicide rate at .3 per 100,000 people.  Given that the population of Iceland is a little over 300,000, that means they average about one homicide per year in the entire country.  Not bad.  It also placed 3rd in internet speed (37.34 Mbps) and tied for third in income inequality and is frequently cited as one of the friendliest countries in the world.


The Bad:

Marijuana and Prostitution are fully illegal, and it’s lacking in diversity (7th, 6th, 9th).  The cost of living index was fairly high coming in at 4th highest with 112.43.

#4 – New Zealand


The Good:

New Zealand ranked first in education on this list and scored highly in terms of diversity (3rd, 5th, 1st).  It has a relatively low poverty rate (15%), and homicide rate (.9 per 100,000).  It also is frequently mentioned as one of the friendliest countries.


The Bad:

Marijuana is fully illegal and the cost of living index is high, coming in 3rd at 113.63.  The internet speed also leaves a lot to be desired, besting only Argentina at 16.9 Mbps.  It finished 8th in healthcare, and it’s income inequality is third highest behind Argentina and Uruguay.

#3 – Belgium


The Good:

Personal freedoms with personal consumption of Marijuana legal and individual Prostitution also legal.  Belgium was also 1st in both ethnic and linguistic diversity, while 7th in religious diversity.


The Bad:

Healthcare (5th), Education (7th), Poverty rate (15.2%), and homicide rate (1.7 per 100,000) were all low to middling on this list.

#2 – Spain


The Good:

Spain scored well in almost all categories featuring a low homicide rate (.8) and low cost of living (83.14) while finishing 1st and 5th in healthcare and education and showing as the most diverse country overall (2nd, 3rd, 3rd).


The Bad:

Not much, but the poverty rate was a little high (19.8%) and the internet speed could be better (20.00 Mbps).

#1 – The Netherlands


The Good:

The Netherlands blew away the competition to become the undisputed best place to live.  Where do you begin?  The Netherlands features relatively low poverty (10.5%) and income inequality and a manageable cost of living index (103.9).  It has fast internet (38.89 MbpS) scored 4th and 3rd in healthcare and education, and is fairly diverse (6th, 2nd, 2nd).  Prostitution and Marijuana are fully legal in the Netherlands (with a few lingering laws on the latter on the books but not enforced), and pet laws are among the most lenient in the world while abuse laws are quite strong earning the Netherlands frequent citations as the most pet friendly country.


The Bad:

The homicide rate (1.1 per 100,000) could stand to be a bit lower, as could the ethnic diversity which placed it 6th on this list.


About Alex

I am awesome.


  1. scottpix

    Glad my country is at least in your top five! 🙂

  2. Pingback: World Rankings on LGBT Rights | Alexander Bauer, Author

  3. Why do you consider ethnic diversity to be a good thing?

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