Man-land Relationship

The regional types of China’s floating population: Identification methods and spatial patterns

  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China|
    2. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Received date: 2010-08-09

  Revised date: 2010-09-20

  Online published: 2011-01-13

Supported by

Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX2-YW-322, National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40971102; The National Science and Technology Support Plan, No.2006BAJ11B02-04


With the rapid increase of the number and influence of floating population in China, it is urgently needed to understand the regional types of China’s floating population and their spatial characteristics. After reviewing the current methods for identifying regional types of floating population, this paper puts forward a new composite-index identification method and its modification version which is consisted of two indexes of the net migration rate and gross migration rate. Then, the traditional single-index and the new composite-index identification methods are empirically tested to explore their spatial patterns and characteristics by using China’s 2000 census data at county level. The results show: (1) The composite-index identification method is much better than traditional single-index method because it can measure the migration direction and scale of floating simultaneously, and in particular it can identify the unique regional types of floating population with large scale of immigration and emigration. (2) The modified composite-index identification method, by using the share of a region’s certain type of floating population to the total in China as weights, can effectively correct the over- or under-estimated errors due to the rather large or small total population of a region. (3) The spatial patterns of different regional types of China’s floating population are closely related to the regional differentiation of their natural environment, population density and socio- economic development level. The three active regional types of floating population are mainly located in the eastern part of China with lower elevation, more than 800 mm precipitation, rather higher population densities and economic development levels.

Cite this article

LIU Shenghe, HU Zhang, DENG Yu, WANG Yingjie . The regional types of China’s floating population: Identification methods and spatial patterns[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2011 , 21(1) : 35 -48 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-011-0827-8