The happiest residents of the Netherlands live in Dalfsen. The Overijssel municipality scored best on multiple indicators for “broad prosperity,” AD reports based on figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
Dalfsen achieved average scores on the hard indicators like income and wealth. But its soft indicators were top. Schools and cafes are within walking distance, it has a high life expectancy, there is a reasonable amount of nature per inhabitant and a very high degree of social cohesion and mutual trust. Dalfsen also has low unemployment, hardly any crime, and a healthy population.
The CBS data for the past three years shows that life is good in the Overijssel countryside. Dinkelland, Raalte, and Staphorst hold second to fourth position on the broad prosperity ranking. De Wolden, just across the border in Drenthe, is the first non-Overijssel municipality on the list in the fifth place. The first Randstad municipality is Ronde Venen, in 23rd place.
The municipalities at the bottom of the broad prosperity rankings are in Limburg and Zuid-Holland. Heerlen is in last place with a high crime rate, low life expectancy, low income, and little social cohesion. Rotterdam is second-to-last, followed by Kerkrade, Brunssum, and Schiedam.
The stats office noted a general divide between the north of the Netherlands and the Randstad and Noord-Brabant. The north scores well in areas like health, society, and the environment, while the Randstad and Noord–Brabant achieve high scores for material prosperity. CBS added that there may well be distortions in its broad prosperity figures. For example, many Randstad cities are bordered by municipalities with a lot of greenery, but they don’t count toward the city’s prosperity.
According to Mark Thissen, a broad welfare researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), these distortions are particularly unfair for the Randstad and Noord-Braband. He isn’t surprised that Overijssel residents are happy, but he thinks Randstad and Noord-Brabant residents are better off than the statistics suggest.
“Certainly municipalities on the outskirts of large cities are undervalued in this way,” Thissen explained to AD. “The amount of available work is higher because of jobs in the big city, and from a suburb, you are often quickly in the green, but that nature falls outside your own place of residence.” The same effect also applies to Limburg to a lesser extent. “Part of the prosperity in that region comes from Belgium or Germany, but that is not included either.”
People also have different views on what “the good life’ is, the PBL researcher added. “Roosendalers and Amsterdammers see it differently. And they largely live where they live because they think they will be happy there.”