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Two Past Trends in Influencing Areas

In this chapter, we summarize past trends in each of the four influencing areas: demographics, economics, energy, and transportation supply and constraints. We drew this information from the papers that served as background materials for each workshop. The information provided in these papers, especially the historical quantitative data, helped inform the range of plausible future projections. We also discuss briefly the rationale for including each of the influencing areas.

The papers summarized in this section were drafted in 2013; we have not updated them with more-recent information because they reflect the knowledge that informed the projections.

Demographic Trends

Demographics refers to the statistical characteristics of a population. Although formal demography is generally limited to basic measures of population size and structure and their change over time, in this case, the research team cast a wider net. In addition to population, we dealt with regional geographic distribution and urbanization because these two trends have changed substantially in China in the past 20 years. In addition, these categories are closely linked to travel demand because of the income inequality that exists between rural and urban populations, as well as between different regions. Given that many of these changes have been driven by rural-to-urban migration as the country industrialized, we also included commute distance and household type. These capture the demographic dimensions of factory work, in which many workers live in dormitories colocated with their places of work and do not make conventional home-to-work commute trips.

Total Population

China's population has increased from 1.14 billion to 1.35 billion in the past two decades. The rate of growth has been slowing; from 1990 to 2000, the average annualized rate was 1.04 percent; in the following decade, the rate fell by about half, to 0.56 percent. Even at this lower rate, the total population currently increases by more than 6 million people every year (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012, Table 3-1).

Population change depends on three factors: births, deaths, and net migration (defined as the number of people who enter a country minus the number who depart in a given year). China's crude birth rate has fallen from 21 births per 1,000 people in 1990 to 12 in 2011. Births have fallen because China's total fertility rate has declined from 2.5 births per woman in 1990 to 1.7 in 2011 (World Bank, 2013), which is below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. This decline might be due in part to China's one-child policy, adopted in 1979.1 However, the population continued to increase because of the number of women in their child-bearing years.

The death rate has been steady during this period; each year, six or seven people per 1,000 die. Life expectancy at birth has also increased, from 69.5 years in 1990 to 75 years in 2011 (World Bank, 2013). Migration is not a major factor in population change in China. Even for the five-year period of the highest out-migration, fewer than 500,000 people left China; most years, the number was closer to 200,000 (World Bank, 2013).

Geographic Distribution and Urbanization

To look at trends in regional population distribution, we used the four economic divisions contained in the 12th five-year plan:2 eastern, western, central, and northeastern.3 Since 1990, most of China's population growth has occurred in the eastern region, a trend that has been accelerating in the past decade. From 1990 to 2000, almost half of China's population growth took place in the eastern region and, from 2000 to 2010, more than 80 percent. The eastern region did not grow exclusively at the expense of the other regions. No region lost population between 1990 and 2010, and the overall balance of population between the four regions did not shift significantly during the 20-year period. The eastern region contained 34 percent of total population in 1990 and 38 percent in 2010. Each of the others saw its percentage of the overall population fall by 1 or 2 percentage points (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012, Table 3-1).

The percentage of the population living in census-defined urban areas has been steadily increasing. In 2011, the population became more urban than rural for the first time, with 51 percent of the Chinese population living in urban areas. These figures are based on annual national sample surveys of permanent residents, not household registration.4 The definition of urban is administrative and not based on population density or commuting patterns. Definitions have changed over the years; the most recent change, in 2006, bases the designation of urban on population size and connection to urban infrastructure (Kamal-Chaoui, Leman, and Rufei, 2009). The annual change in urban population has been positive each year for the past two decades, peaking in 1996 at 6.1 percent. In contrast, the rural population began declining that same year and has declined every year since (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012, Table 3-1).

Commute Distance and Household Type

National data on commute distance—the distance between home and work—do not exist. To develop some partial information, we looked instead at travel data for three of China's largest cities, which included both average trip lengths and commute trip lengths. Generally, trip lengths have been increasing. Guangzhou's average trip length (for all modes) rose from 3.2 km (just less than 2 miles) in 1984 to 5 km (3.1 miles) in 2005, and the length of commute trips rose from 3.7 km (2.3 miles) to 6.3 km (3.9 miles) (Jing and Wang, 2004; Luo and Gan, 2010). For Shanghai and Beijing, the data are differentiated by mode. Trip lengths on public transit in Shanghai increased from 6.6 km (4.1 miles) in 1998 to 9.7 km (6.0 miles) in 2009; in 2009, the average car trip was just over 15 km (9.3 miles) (Zhu, 2012; Lu and Gu, 2011). Beijing's rail transit trip length more than doubled from 8 km (just less than 5 miles) in 2000 to 16.4 km (10.2 miles) in 2011 (Beijing Transportation Research Center [BJTRC], 2010; Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, BJTRC, and World Bank, 2009). The length of a peak-hour average car trip fell from 2010 to 2011, 10.8 km (6.7 miles) to 9.3 km (5.8 miles), but this might be due to issues with data collection (BJTRC, 2010, 2011).5

Households are classified as either family (jiating) or collective (jiti). Family households consist of two or more related people who live in one dwelling; family households can also have only one person. Collective households are those in which multiple unrelated people live in one location, such as a factory dormitory. These designations are based on actual place of residency. According to data from three sources,6 the proportion of family households is declining, with the most-recent figures showing about 93 to 95 percent of people living in family households, representing a decline from the late 1990s (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 1997-2002, 2004-2012).

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