War shocks, migration, and historical spatial development in China

Ting Chen, James Kai Sing Kung*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    North China was traditionally the cradle of civilization in China, and yet most of its largest cities today are located in the south. Using a unique gridded (1∗1°) data set of population density for nearly two millennia, we show that the center of economic gravity had gradually shifted to the south between the 3rd and 12th centuries as a result of mass migration, of which nomadic intrusions were the key driving force. Evidence shows that the destination regions saw significant growth in population density and urban agglomeration after each wave of migration. Moreover, as it was the elites who spearheaded the migratory move, they not only brought with them their own (upper-tail) human capital, but also perpetuated a persistence of human capital investment over time as manifested in a significantly higher density of jinshi scholars in the imperial civil service exam and number of Confucian academies in the past, and years of schooling today.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number103718
    JournalRegional Science and Urban Economics
    Early online date13 Jul 2021
    Publication statusPublished - May 2022

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Urban Studies

    User-Defined Keywords

    • China
    • Historical spatial development
    • Human capital
    • Migration
    • Population density
    • War shocks


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