Changing spatial pattern of the floating population in urban China during the early 2010s: industrial upgrading, housing market, amenity and migration regulations

Authors: JIAWEI WU*, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Topics: Urban Geography, Asia, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Migration redistribution; the floating population; urban transformation; housing price; living environment; urbanization; China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The large increase in the floating population has greased the wheels of the labor market and fueled rapid urbanization in China over the past three decades. As China’s economy matures, its urbanization has reached a new phase, characterized by continuing industrial upgrading, sharply rising housing prices, changing population and migration regulations, and growing concerns about pollutions and amenities. This paper uses data from the Chinese censuses and statistical yearbooks to study the changing spatial pattern of the floating population from 2010 to 2015—in this new phase of urbanization—and to examine factors behind the changing pattern. Results show that the growth of the floating population has slowed down, particularly in the first-tier cities of the coastal region. The interactions between the push and pull factors have led to time-and-spatial variations in the ebb and flow of the floating population. The push factors include high and rising housing prices, population regulations, and air pollution. Meanwhile, the pull factors include low and stable housing prices, accommodating migration regulations, quality public services, and strong labor markets. Therefore, many lower-tier cities have experienced a significant growth in the floating population. Our findings suggest that the redistribution of the floating population will continue and that lower-tier cities are in the driver’s seat to shape the migration flow and to foster a better alignment between their migration and industrial policies.

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