Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (2): 215-230.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1843-y

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Spatial pattern and driving factors of migrants on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: Insights from short-distance and long-distance population migrants

QI Wei1,2,4(), YI Jiawei1,3,4,*()   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-03-21 Accepted:2020-09-15 Online:2021-02-25 Published:2021-04-25
  • Contact: YI Jiawei;
  • About author:Qi Wei (1989-), Associate Professor, specialized in urban geography and population geography.
  • Supported by:
    The Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE)(XDA20040401);The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (STEP)(2019QZKK1005);National Natural Sciences Foundation of China(41701165)


As one of the most ecologically sensitive issues in the world, migration now plays an important role in population growth on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. To promote sustainable development in the world’s third pole, it is necessary to investigate population migration on the Plateau. Using 2010 census data, a spatial database of county-level migrants on the Plateau was constructed, and migrants were divided into short-distance and long-distance migrants according to the hukou-registered origins. Measuring migration intensity allowed the spatial pattern of population migration on the Plateau to be ascertained. The driving factors were identified using spatial regression models, and the main conclusions are as follows: (1) In 2010, there were 1.23 million inter-county migrants on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the overall migration intensity reached 10.50%. There existed significant spatial differences in population migration intensity on the Plateau at that time, and the provincial or prefectural capitals were attractive destinations for migrants. Northwestern Qinghai, which boasted mining industries, constituted a significant spatial cluster with a relatively high migration intensity. However, most areas on the Plateau attracted relatively few migrants, especially in western and northern parts of Tibet, which were sparsely populated and uninhabitable. (2) There were 0.95 million short-distance migrants and 0.28 million long-distance migrants. The short-distance migration intensity was 8.14%, while the long-distance migration intensity was only 2.36%. Short-distance migration was the main form of population migration, with a pattern similar to the layout of overall population migration intensity. Only a few county-level units strongly attracted long-distance migrants, which were mostly distributed in northwestern Qinghai. (3) Economic factors were considered fundamental drivers for migrants to live on the Plateau. Destinations with high levels of economic development and more opportunities in non-agricultural jobs proved more attractive for migrants. For short-distance migrants, urbanization level also proved a considerable driving factor for in-migration. However, long-distance migrants were mainly affected by the job chances of the secondary industry on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Key words: migration, migrants, spatial pattern, driving factors, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau