Mobility and travel behavior in urban China: The role of institutional factors

Mingzhu Yao, Donggen Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Institutional factors, which are referred to social and economic norms and rules, define individuals’ entitlement and access to opportunities and thus may play an important role in shaping individuals’ mobility and travel behavior, especially in countries that are experiencing or have experienced the transition from a planned economy to market-oriented economy. Studies in Chinese cities show that danwei or type of work unit is an important institutional factor in explaining jobs-housing relationship and commuting behavior. We argue that, hukou or household registration (another institutional factor), may also explain the mobility and travel behavior of Chinese urbanites. Unlike population registration systems in many other countries, hukou, one of the most important institutional arrangements in contemporary China, determines an individual's entitlement to state-provided benefits and opportunities and plays a crucial role in defining access to housing, jobs, car ownership/usage, education, etc., which has far reaching implications for mobility and travel behavior. Using data collected from Beijing, we use structural equations modeling method to empirically test our hypothesis about the importance of hukou in explaining car ownership, travel time and transport mode choice for daily trips. Results show that hukou status has a significant impact on mobility and travel behavior of individuals. Specifically, local urban residents are found to have better home-work proximity and higher car ownership rate, travel more by non-motorized modes and spend less time on daily travel. This study provides insights into the complex relationships among hukou, built environment, mobility and travel behavior in urban China. The research findings can be used to assist planners and policy-makers in developing effective strategies to promote sustainable urban development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-131
Number of pages10
JournalTransport Policy
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation

User-Defined Keywords

  • Beijing
  • Car ownership
  • Hukou
  • Structural equations model
  • Travel behavior


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