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Stay or Leave? The Role of Air Pollution in Urban Migration Choices

Ziming Liu and Lu Yu

Ecological Economics, 2020, vol. 177, issue C

Abstract: Air pollution is a pervasive issue in many cities in the developing world. Yet, the linkage between air pollution and decisions concerning internal migration remains rarely explored. In this paper, we match data from China, based on an annual city-level statistical yearbook, historical air pollution indicators and a nationwide survey of temporary labor migrants in 2016 in order to analyze the effects of air pollution on migrants' interest in settling down in the cities they have moved to for work. Our results show that there is a significant and negative effect of air pollution on migrants' interest in settling down. Specifically, this negative effect of air pollution is greater for old, less-educated, within-city migrants and rural migrants - who comprise a large proportion of the Chinese urban labor force. We conclude that air pollution undermines investment in human capital and may become an obstacle for sustainable development of cities; thus, we underline the potential benefits of more stringent environmental regulation.

Keywords: Air pollution; Air quality index; Internal migration; Environmental regulation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106780

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