City dwellers: highly educated but weighed down by housing costs


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In 2016, 41% of the EU population lived in cities, while 31% lived in towns and suburbs and further 28% in rural areas.

Across the EU Member States, the largest share of population living in cities in 2016 was recorded in Malta (90% of the total population in 2016). Half or more of the total population also lived in cities in the United Kingdom (59%), the Netherlands (55%), Spain (51%) and Cyprus (50%). In contrast, fewer than 1 in 4 people lived in cities in Luxembourg (13%, 2015 data), Slovenia (20%), and Slovakia (23%).

Cities are often seen as centres of growth, providing opportunities for studying, innovation and employment. Yet, they face a range of social and environmental challenges, and one of them is affordable housing.

This news item is published on the occasion of World Cities Day.


1 in 3 city dwellers with tertiary education attainment

Cities tend to have a higher share of highly-educated people. In 2016, more than 1 in 3 persons (35%) living in EU cities had a tertiary education level, compared with 1 in 4 persons (24%) living in towns and suburbs and 1 in 5 (20%) in rural areas.


Share of population with tertiary education attainment by degree of urbanisation, 2016 (%)

The source dataset can be found here.


Housing cost overburden rate highest in Greece, lowest in Malta

Although a city life offers greater opportunities for higher education and employment, it also has disadvantages, such as higher housing costs.

At EU level, 13% of the city population were living in households which spent more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. In general in the EU, the housing cost overburden rate was higher in cities than in towns and suburbs (11%) and rural areas (9%).


The source dataset can be found here.


In 2016, the housing cost overburden rate for people living in cities was by far the highest in Greece (45% of total city population). It was followed at a distance by Denmark (23%), Germany (20%), Bulgaria (19%) and Belgium (16%). In all EU Member States, the housing cost overburden rate was higher in cities compared to rural areas, except for Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Hungary and Lithuania.


For more information:

Chapters in the Eurostat regional yearbook 2017 dedicated to European cities and rural areas

Regions and Cities Illustrated (RCI) – an interactive visualisation tool with maps and graphs

Statistical atlas - an interactive map viewer with city chapter

My capital in a bubble – a visualisation tool comparing data of European capitals