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The gap between and determinants of growth in car ownership in urban and rural areas of China: A longitudinal data case study


  • Zhao, Pengjun
  • Bai, Yu


Growth in car ownership plays an important role in improving personal mobility and well-being. Social inequality in car ownership between urban and rural areas is a key issue for those concerned with transport justice, and is increasingly attracting the attention of researchers in both developed and developing countries. However, empirical evidence from developing countries remains scarce. More specifically, existing findings are dominated by cross-sectional data analysis, while longitudinal data analyses are rare. This study contributes fresh evidence by looking at the case of China, where the number of private cars increased from 65 to 165 million during the period 2010–2016. It uses nationwide panel survey data (2010–2016) from the CFPS (China Family Panel Studies) to examine the change in individual household car ownership and its determinants. Generally speaking, growth in car ownership is significantly related to higher household income for both urban and rural households. However, increasing income inequality between urban and rural households appears to be increasing the gap in car ownership. The gap is also affected by a family's life events, including an increase in family size, owning housing and residential relocation. Less proximity to basic public services (e.g. schools, hospitals) in the rural areas is especially related to ‘forced’ car ownership for rural households that have financial difficulties. Many forced car owners (13.2%) reported their life satisfaction decreased after buying a car. For urban households, car licence control policies, such as the car licence auction and lottery systems, are significantly constraining the growth of their car ownership, and worsening social inequality in car ownership between the rich and the poor and between local residents and migrants without local hukou. Apart from a personal voluntary choice, contextual and institutional constraints are becoming vital factors influencing social inequalities in car ownership in transition China.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhao, Pengjun & Bai, Yu, 2019. "The gap between and determinants of growth in car ownership in urban and rural areas of China: A longitudinal data case study," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 1-1.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jotrge:v:79:y:2019:i:c:11
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2019.102487

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