Cheap, Hot and Dangerous: 7 Deadly Cities
Imagine a city with a warm to hot climate. And where your savings go a little further. How safe would that city have to be for you to move there? People around the globe, especially in more northern climates, dream about escaping to live somewhere without winter and where the cost of living is more affordable. So, when someone in Glasgow or Edmonton goes looking for something cheap, hot, and dangerous, what are they likely to find in today’s world?
Let’s start by defining some terms.
What do we mean by Cheap?
What do we mean by Hot?
What do we mean by Dangerous?
As usual, Numbeo’s website has some very useful data to help us do a little digging. The crowd-sourced data comes from residents of the cities who respond to surveys. We’ve taken Numbeo’s Quality of Life index and its components for cities around the world, and picked cities which are:
- Fairly warm to very hot. This is reflected in the Climate index which we’ve relabelled “Heat.” However, the lower the Heat index (or Climate index) the hotter the weather. The higher the Climate index, the nicer the weather. Very cold weather can also result in a lower Climate index. Yes, it’s just like porridge: not too cold and not too hot gives you a high score. Because we don’t deal with colder cities obviously, the Heat index is inversely related to how hot it is.
- Affordable. This is shown by the Purchasing Power index which is a measure of how far your salary goes compared to a salary’s purchasing power in New York City. The higher the PP, the better off you are. It is not a cost-of-living index, because what good is a fairly low cost of living index if your salary is even lower? An interesting index that shows some correlation is what we’ve called the House index, which measures how many annual incomes a house would cost you. The lower the better, obviously. It’s like a PP index that focuses specifically on housing affordability.
- Safe or Dangerous? The Safety Index is based on a composite of measures that show how scared residents of a city are of the possibility of suffering any sort of robbery, carjacking, or assault. The higher the index, the safer the city.
We’ve used Numbeo’s Quality of Life Mid-2018 survey. This is crowd-sourced data and to a certain extent it does reflect the views of inhabitants on the city they reside in. But it also can be argued that this is one of the best ways to determine the facts on the ground and get a good sense of what life is like in any given city. So what trends can be seen?
You can get cheap. You can get hot. You can get dangerous. But it’s actually not very easy to get all three factors in any one specific city.
What Do We Mean By Cheap?
Because this is a site dedicated to immigration, the best way to measure cheap is to see how far your average salary in that city gets you. If a good meal or a nice apartment is much cheaper in Kolkata than in New York, but your average salary in Kolkata is even cheaper, then you aren’t ahead. An average rent in Kolkata for a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre is about US$170. In New York it’s closer to US$3,170. But because salaries in NYC are so much higher, your purchasing power index (PP) is way ahead of Kolkata’s: 100 to 60.41. That means that on an average salary you can only buy about 60% of the same goods and services in Kolkata compared to New York City. In other words, Kolkata is not that cheap if you live and work in the city.
What Do We Mean By Hot?
Monterrey [Public Domain]
It depends on how hot residents of any city consider their city to be. Kolkata can be scorching. From March through October the average high is over 30° C, with record highs in the 40’s and lots of humidity as well. And the climate index at Numbeo is 59.85 which is a relatively low ranking that shows the city’s residents feel the heat, literally. Monterrey, Mexico on the other hand is a drier climate but has summers that are as hot as Kolkata’s if not quite as long. In Monterrey, average highs hit 30° C in April and stay above 30° C through September, with record highs well into the 40’s. But residents of Mexico’s richest city feel much better about their climate. The climate index at Numbeo for Monterrey is 80.37 indicating a noticeably higher level of satisfaction with their home town weather.
What Do We Mean by Dangerous?
This figure is based on how safe residents of a specific city feel when it comes to things like being robbed, or having your car stolen, or your house broken into. Or how safe you feel walking alone at night, for example, as well as how bad you feel corruption is in your city. The higher the crime index, the higher the probability that you will be victim of a crime. The safety index is then calculated as (100 – Crime index). That means that the lower the safety index the less safe the city. For example, citizens of Rio de Janeiro, a beautiful city, feel very unsafe in almost all aspects of their daily lives with a safety ranking of 22.22.
And it’s with the safety index that we start to see that cheap, hot, and dangerous is a tougher combination to find than you might expect. Especially when you realize that some pretty cold cities, like Detroit, Chicago, or Ulaanbaatar are relatively unsafe cities. Throw in Kansas City, Rochester NY, and yes, Winnipeg, and you’re still in the 80 least safe cities of the globe. Having said that, the top 40 crime cities tend to be in either Latin America or Africa where most cities – but not all – are hot-weather urban centres, but also where factors like poverty, corruption, and inequality as well as frayed social services come into play. And as stated above, we’ve left out colder and milder weather cities to focus on the hotter cities around the world.
Can I get Cheap, Hot, and Dangerous Please?
It seems that cheap – as measured by purchasing power or how far your salary goes – doesn’t always mean dangerous. In fact, the less safe a city is, the lower it’s purchasing power. As you can see, a city that controls crime tends to be a city that pays better salaries.
As can clearly be seen, Safety and Purchasing Power are linked in a positive fashion. Less bullets tends to equal more goods and services that you can afford on an average salary. Or said another way, in cities with more crime your paycheque tends to buy you less things. Sorry, dangerous does not equal cheap.
How easy is it to find a hot and dangerous city? Does more heat mean more frayed tempers and higher rates of crime? Again, the evidence suggests that this may often not be the case. Safety and low levels of crime have much more to do with how a society is organized and how it deals with the challenges it faces.
The Climate index is a measure of how much the residents of a city like their weather. For example, at the top of the Climate index is Auckland, New Zealand followed oddly enough by Caracas. Nairobi, which has a mild climate given it’s altitude, comes in 3rd , while Medellin, nestled in the Andes in Colombia, is 4th. While Auckland is a very safe city, Caracas is currently one of the most dangerous cities anywhere in the world, and Nairobi and Medellin suffer from a relatively high levels of crime.
At the other end of the scale, on the Arabian Peninsula where you have some of the planet’s hottest temperatures in summer, one finds cities with low Climate index readings but relatively high Safety index readings. For example: Riyadh, Doha, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai which are the top cities on our cheap, hot, and dangerous chart, in terms of quality of life.
The following chart shows how climate and safety relate with our hot, cheap, and dangerous cities.
The lower the Climate Index, which means the hotter it gets, the safer the city often seems to be, at least within our cheap, hot and dangerous sample. It’s not a perfect relationship with a lot of cities clustered in the middle area of the graph, but it is clearly an inverse relationship overall. Sorry again. Hot does not equal dangerous.
Finally, is a hot city a cheaper one? That is, does your average salary buy you more goods and services in a relatively hotter city? The hottest of the bunch – the cities on the Arabian Peninsula – have the highest Purchasing Power levels, along with Gurgaon, a satellite city of Delhi in India which is home to many international corporations and major Indian enterprises and which has an average income well above most cities on the Subcontinent. Let’s look at a graph of the comparison between climate and purchasing power.
Although the data points are fairly dispersed, you can clearly see a downward slope showing an inverse relationship between the Climate index and the Purchasing Power index. That is, as the climate index falls because of hotter weather, the purchasing power of an average salary tends to rise. Maybe it’s a case of prosperous cities in the Middle East having to pay ex-patriate workers good salaries in order to bring them into the country and get the jobs done. Maybe it’s a case of the Arabian Peninsula having cities that are based on an energy economy with enormous oil reserves to back them up. But even without cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, the data points still seem to suggest that purchasing power is a function – in part at least – of how hot a city is. So, what do you know? Hot does mean affordable. But only because your salary goes further. Not because prices are necessarily lower.
In other words, what really matters seems to be how well run a city is – and that certainly means how safe a city is, among other factors. This is what seems to determine how far your salary goes when living and working there. Rio, for example, is nowhere near as hot as Dubai. It even has milder weather and it has a huge country like Brazil – endowed with all sorts of natural resources and a large hard-working population – to draw upon. But corruption and crime have taken a big toll on the quality of life in Rio. And not only that, Rio is an expensive city and your average salary does not get you nearly as much as in cities like Doha, for example. Or Gurgaon in India for that matter, despite the fact that Gurgaon is also experiencing a crime wave.
7 Deadly Cities
7. Rio de Janeiro
Expensive. Corrupt as hell. Polluted. And if you don’t like “futbol” you’re out of luck unless you spend all day indoors staring at ESPN in Portuguese. Plus, the water gets too cool to swim in June, July, and August. Those beautiful post-card views? Best seen on a post-card.
Visit the city but avoid living here until Brazilians finally get their act together.
Dirty. Crowded. Hot. Polluted. Corrupt with a B-rate actor as the gun-loving President. Plus, if you head to far-away beaches on the Southern islands, you could always end up kidnapped by terrorists.
When it gets hot here, it’s as bad as anywhere on the planet plus it’s humid. Yes, lots of wealth is created in the city, but you’d be hard-pressed to see it amongst the poverty. Almost as polluted as Manila with overcrowded commuter trains creaking their way into the downtown every day.
Not the best place to move to.
Your salary might go a little further here, but summers are excruciating, and the smog is terrible.
Not the place to head to if your health matters to you.
Yes, the city has a bearable tropical climate without the scorching heat of the subcontinent. Yes, it’s a little less polluted than cities like Delhi or Rio. But your salary will be a pittance and your housing will be unaffordable if you are an average employee. If you’re looking to live and work in Colombo let’s hope you work for a multinational that pays you in dollars.
Otherwise, avoid this poverty trap.
It’s only unbearably hot three-quarters of the year. Housing is slightly more affordable, and it’s only as polluted as Kolkata. And your salary buys you slightly more than in Rio. Which means it’s still one of the most unaffordable cities in the world for those who work and live there. Plus, there’s always political instability and the threat of terrorism.
Avoid at all costs.
The city that helped define Third World Poverty. With a sluggish polluted river winding through its entrails, and an endless summer season that makes candles melt. Yes, housing is slightly more affordable than in Delhi, but you buy less of everything else with your average salary.
The kind of place you escape from.