Impacts of Migration on Urban Environmental Pollutant Emissions in China: A Comparative Perspective

  • 8 Accesses


In recent years, researchers have devoted considerable attention to identifying the causes of urban environmental pollution. To determine whether migrant populations significantly affect urban environments, we examined the relationship between urban environmental pollutant emissions and migrant populations at the prefectural level using data obtained for 90 Chinese cities evidencing net in-migration. By dividing the permanent populations of these cities into natives and migrants in relation to the population structure, we constructed an improved Stochastic Impacts by Regression on Population, Affluence and Technology model (STIRPAT) that included not only environmental pollutant emission variables but also variables on the cities’ attributes. We subsequently conducted detailed analyses of the results of the models to assess the impacts of natives and migrants on environmental pollutant emissions. The main findings of our study were as follows: 1) Migrant populations have significant impacts on environmental emissions both in terms of their size and concentration. Specifically, migrant populations have negative impacts on Air Quality Index (AQI) as well as PM2.5 emissions and positive impacts on emissions of NO2 and CO2. 2) The impacts of migrant populations on urban environmental pollutant emissions were 8 to 30 times weaker than that of local populations. 3) Urban environmental pollutant emissions in different cities differ significantly according to variations in the industrial structures, public transportation facilities, and population densities.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA


  1. Bartlett A A, Lytwak E P, 1995. Zero growth of the population of the United States. Population and Environment, 16(5): 415–128. doi:

  2. Bilsborrow R E, Henry S J F, 2012. The use of survey data to study migration-environment relationships in developing countries: alternative approaches to data collection. Population and Environment, 34(1): 113–141. doi:

  3. Bohon S A, Stamps K, Atiles J H, 2008. Transportation and migrant adjustment in Georgia. Population Research and Policy Review, 27(3): 273–291. doi:

  4. Bongaarts J, 1992. Population growth and global warming. Population and Development Review, 18(2): 299–319. doi:

  5. Boserup E, 1981. Population and Technological Change: a Study of Long-Term Trends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  6. Cramer J C, 1998. Population growth and air quality in California. Demography, 35(1): 45–56. doi:

  7. Department of Urban Socio-economic Surveys, National Bureau of Statistics, 2006, China City Statistical Yearbook, China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)

  8. Department of Urban Socio-economic Surveys, National Bureau of Statistics, 2016, China City Statistical Yearbook, China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)

  9. Dietz T, Rosa E A, 1994. Rethinking the environmental impacts of population, affluence and technology. Human Ecology Review, 1: 277–300.

  10. Ehrlich P R, Holdren J P, 1971. Impact of population growth. Science, 171(3977): 1212–1217. doi:

  11. Fan Y, Liu L C, Wu G et al., 2006. Analyzing impact factors of CO2 emissions using the STIRPAT model. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 26(4): 377–395. doi:

  12. Fang Chuanglin, Bao Chao, Qiao Biao et al., 2008. Urbanization and Ecological Environmental Effect. Beijing: Science Press. (in Chinese)

  13. Fang Chuanglin, Wang Jing, 2013. A theoretical analysis of interactive coercing effects between urbanization and eco-environment. Chinese Geographical Science, 23(2): 147–162. doi:

  14. Fang Chuanglin, 2018. Important progress and prospects of China’s urbanization and urban agglomeration in the past 40 years of reform and opening-up. Economic Geography, 38(9): 1–9. (in Chinese)

  15. Garling S, 1998. Immigration policy and the environment: the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Population and Environment, 20(1): 23–54. doi:

  16. Harper S, 2013. Population-environment interactions: European migration, population composition and climate change. Environmental and Resource Economics, 55(4): 525–541. doi:

  17. Haseeb M, Hassan S, Azam M, 2017. Rural-urban transformation, energy consumption, economic growth, and CO2 emissions using STRIPAT model for BRICS countries. Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, 36(2): 523–531. doi:

  18. Hogan D J, 2007. Human dimensions of global environmental change. Ambiente & Sociedade, 10(2): 161–166. doi:

  19. Hope K R, Lekorwe M H, 1999. Urbanization and the environment in Southern Africa: towards a managed framework for the sustainability of cities. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 42(6): 837–859. doi:

  20. Hu Huaying, 1990. Characteristic parameters of Guangzhou’s non-inhabitant daily trips. Supplement to the Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universities Sunyatseni, 9(4): 105–111. (in Chinese)

  21. Hunter L M, 2000. A comparison of the environmental attitudes, concern, and behaviors of native-born and foreign-born U.S. residents. Population and Environment, 21(6): 565–580. doi:

  22. Li H N, Mu H L, Zhang M et al., 2011. Analysis on influence factors of China’s CO2 emissions based on Path-STIRPAT model. Energy Policy, 39(11): 6906–6911. doi:

  23. Li J, Dong S C, Li Z H et al., 2014. A bibliometric analysis of Chinese ecological and environmental research on urbanization. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 5(3): 211–221. doi:

  24. Li Yang, Yin Jianfeng, 2005. High saving rate, high investment rate and Chinese economy growth during labor transition. Economic Research Journal, (2): 4–15, 25. (in Chinese)

  25. Liu Xiaopeng, Wang Yajuan, 2013. Progress in the researches on the relationships between eco-migration and ecological environment in China. Journal of Ningxia University (Natural Science Edition), 34(2): 173–176. (in Chinese)

  26. Liu Yaobin, Li Rendong, Song Xuefeng, 2005. Summarary and comment of the correlation study of urbanization and urban eco-environment. China Population Resources and Environment, 15(3): 55–60. (in Chinese)

  27. Liu Y S, Zhou Y, Wu W X, 2015. Assessing the impact of population, income and technology on energy consumption and industrial pollutant emissions in China. Applied Energy, 155: 904–917. doi:

  28. Ma G Z, Hofmann E T, 2019. Immigration and environment in the U.S.: a spatial study of air quality. The Social Science Journal, 56(1): 94–106. doi:

  29. Ma Xiaowei, Zhang Yan, 2004. Quantifying economic contribution of the floating population in the cities. Population Research, 28(4): 63–67. (in Chinese)

  30. Malthus T R, 1978. Population: The First Essay. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

  31. Marshall J, 2005. Environmental health: megacity, mega mess. Nature, 437(7057): 312–314. doi:

  32. Martínez-Zarzoso I, Maruotti A, 2011. The impact of urbanization on CO2 emissions: evidence from developing countries. Ecological Economics, 70(7): 1344–1353. doi:

  33. Meadows D H, Meadows D L, Randers J et al., 1972. The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books.

  34. Min Qingwen, Zhang Yongxun, Zhao Guigen, 2012. Energy Utilization by Guinan households in a resettlement area of ‘Three-River-Source’ and its effect on the ecological environment. Resources Science, 34(11): 2018–2025. (in Chinese)

  35. Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the People’s Republic of China, 2017. Report on the state of the Ecology and Environment in China 2017.

  36. Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, R. P. China, 2006, China Urban Construction Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Planning Press. (in Chinese)

  37. Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Develpment, P. R. China, 2016. China Urban Construction Statistical Yearbook, 2016. Beijing: China Planning Press. (in Chinese)

  38. Neumann K, Hilderink H, 2015. Opportunities and challenges for investigating the environment-migration nexus. Human Ecology, 43(2): 309–322. doi:

  39. Neumayer E, 2006. The environment: one more reason to keep immigrants out?. Ecological Economics, 59(2): 204–207. doi:

  40. Poumanyvong P, Kaneko S, 2010. Does urbanization lead to less energy use and lower CO2 emissions? A cross-country analysis. Ecological Economics, 70(2): 434–444. doi:

  41. Price C E, Feldmeyer B, 2012. The environmental impact of immigration: an analysis of the effects of immigrant concentration on air pollution levels. Population Research and Policy Review, 31(1): 119–140. doi:

  42. Qin H, 2009. The Impacts of Rural-to-Urban Labor Migration on the Rural Environment in Chongqing Municipality, Southwest China: Mediating Roles of Rural Household Livelihoods and Community Development. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  43. Qin H, Liao T F, 2016. The association between rural-urban migration flows and urban air quality in China. Regional Environmental Change, 16(5): 1375–1387. doi:

  44. Rafiq S, Nielsen I, Smyth R, 2017. Effect of internal migration on the environment in China. Energy Economics, 64: 31–44. doi:

  45. Seto K C, Sánchez-Rodríguez R, Fragkias M, 2010. The new geography of contemporary urbanization and the environment. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 35(1): 167–194. doi:

  46. Shahbaz M, Loganathan N, Muzaffar A T et al., 2016. How urbanization affects CO2 emissions in Malaysia? The application of STIRPAT model. Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, 57: 83–93. doi:

  47. Simon J L, 1981. The Ultimate Resource. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  48. Squalli J, 2009. Immigration and environmental emissions: a U.S. county-level analysis. Population and Environment, 30(6): 247–260. doi:

  49. Squalli J, 2010. An empirical assessment of U.S. state-level immigration and environmental emissions. Ecological Economics, 69(5): 1170–1175. doi:

  50. Takahashi B, Duan R, Van Witsen A, 2018. Hispanics’ behavioral intentions toward energy conservation: the role of sociodemographic, informational, and attitudinal variables. Social Science Quarterly, 99(1): 341–361. doi:

  51. United Nations Population Fund, 1991. Population, Resources and the Environment: the Critical Challenges. New York: United Nations.

  52. United Nations, 2017. World Population Prospect 2017, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division. New York: United Nations.

  53. Xiao Yue, Tian Yongzhong, Xu Wenxuan et al., 2018. Study on the spatiotemporal characteristics and socioeconomic driving factors of air pollution in China. Ecology and Environment Sciences, 27(3): 518–526. (in Chinese)

  54. Yang Ge, 2017. Migration and relative poverty in cities: current situation, risk and policy. Review of Economy and Management, 33(1): 13–22. (in Chinese)

  55. Yeh J C, Liao C H, 2017. Impact of population and economic growth on carbon emissions in Taiwan using an analytic tool STIRPAT. Sustainable Environment Research, 27(1): 41–48. doi:

  56. York R, Rosa E A, Dietz T, 2003. STIRPAT, IPAT and ImPACT: analytic tools for unpacking the driving forces of environmental impacts. Ecological Economics, 46(3): 351–365. doi:

  57. Zhang C G, Lin Y, 2012. Panel estimation for urbanization, energy consumption and CO2 emissions: a regional analysis in China. Energy Policy, 49: 488–498. doi:

  58. Zhang Li, 2015. Estimating the value of migration: floating population’s contributions to urban revenue. Population Research, 39(4): 57–65. (in Chinese)

  59. Zhang Liqian, Cai Jianming, Wang Yan, 2010. Advance in study on urbanization and urban eco-environment. Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 19(1): 244–252. (in Chinese)

  60. Zhao Meifeng, Qi Wei, Liu Shenghe, 2018. Spatial differentiation and formation mechanism of floating population communities in Beijing. Acta Geographica Sinica, 73(8): 1494–1512. (in Chinese)

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Xiaowei Shi.

Additional information

Foundation item

Under the auspices of Shanxi Scholarship Council of China (No. 2017-003)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wang, G., Shi, X., Cui, H. et al. Impacts of Migration on Urban Environmental Pollutant Emissions in China: A Comparative Perspective. Chin. Geogr. Sci. 30, 45–58 (2020).

Download citation


  • migration
  • urban
  • environmental pollutant emissions
  • Stochastic Impacts by Regression on Population, Affluence and Technology (STIRPAT) model