Disentangling the complex effects of socioeconomic, climatic, and urban form factors on air pollution: A case study of China

Yupeng Liu, Jianguo Wu, Deyong Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


China's tremendous economic growth during the past three decades has resulted in worsening air quality in most of its cities. However, the spatiotemporal patterns and underlying drivers of air pollution in China remain poorly understood. To address this issue, we used stepwise regression to identify major socioeconomic, climatic, and urban form factors influencing air pollution in 69 major cities across China. Our results showed that social factors such as population size and density were positively correlated with emissions of PM2.5, PM10, NOx, and SO2. Economic factors such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and GDP of secondary industry were positively correlated with industry and transportation emissions but negatively correlated with residential emissions of air pollutants. Urban form attributes such as measures of urban fragmentation and contiguity were important in explaining patterns of emissions from residential, power generation, and transportation sectors. As for climatic factors, higher precipitation, higher wind speed, and higher temperatures were all negatively correlated with air pollution levels. We also found that the effects of socioeconomic, climatic, and urban from factors on air pollution levels varied considerably among seasons and between the annual and seasonal scales. Our findings have useful implications for urban planning and management for controlling air pollution in China and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number776
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 12 2018


  • Air pollution index
  • Built-up area
  • Fine particulate matter
  • Urban morphology
  • Urban sprawl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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