Understanding Transportation in Urban China - Local Residents vs Migrant Workers

Friday, April 15, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:00pm PDT
Jenny Liu, Assistant Professor, Portland State University

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Understanding Transportation in Urban China - Local Residents vs Migrant Workers

With rapid urbanization in China and other developing economies around the world, it has become imperative to understand household transportation behavior and expenditures in these urban areas. The objective of this study is to examine the differences in the determinants of household transportation expenditures within two very distinct populations in Chinese cities: local residents and migrant workers.

In order to craft policies or strategies promoting sustainable transportation or livability, it is essential to understand whether the drivers that push the migrant population towards spending more on transportation or owning bikes or motorbikes are similar to drivers for the rest of the population. This is further complicated by the differential treatment of households within China’s hukou (household registration) system which determines eligibility to receive public benefits in housing or education. Because nearly 40% of the population in urban areas are migrants, it is particularly important to examine how the transportation choices and behavior of migrant households may diverge (or not) from the rest of the urban dwellers.

Utilizing a unique dataset that surveys both types of households, we utilize descriptive statistics and regression models to analyze their transportation expenditures. We find that household income level and automobile ownership are the strongest predictors of household transportation expenditures. In addition, larger local resident households who are younger tend to spend more on transportation while migrant households generally spend less on transportation, particularly those with stronger social networks and those who do not hold urban hukou status.

We conclude that significant differences do exist and may be exacerbated by inequitable access to public services, housing opportunities and other urban amenities in addition to major differences in household composition, preferences and levels of participation in the urban economic and social systems.

Jenny H. Liu, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning and Assistant Director of the Northwest Economic Research Center (NERC) at Portland State University. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from UC Berkeley. Dr. Liu is an environmental and transportation economist with a focus on public policy, urban issues and social equity. She has conducted research on an Oregon state-level carbon tax, the Oregon electric vehicle industry, household residential location decisions and its effects on travel behavior, economic development impacts of transit oriented developments across the country and property value effects of the Oregon property tax system. Currently, Dr. Liu has been working on developing social media performance measures for public transit, and constructing a transportation cost index that can measure multimodal transportation performance on a regional scale. She is also completing collaborative research projects with PSU Institute of Sustainable Solutions (ISS) and Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) that examine trends in Portland's food economy, economic impacts of deconstruction versus demolitions, and economic impacts of bike/pedestrian infrastructure such as the Portland Green Loop.