PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2021, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (3): 357-369.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2021.03.001

• Articles •     Next Articles

Spatial distribution of population decline areas in China and underlying causes from a multi-periodical perspective

LIU Zhen1(), QI Wei1, QI Honggang3, LIU Shenghe1,2,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciencesand Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. College of Urban and Environmental Science, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300387, China
  • Received:2020-04-30 Revised:2020-10-07 Online:2021-03-28 Published:2021-05-28
  • Contact: LIU Shenghe;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42001166);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41771180);China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2019M660776)


Regional population decline has gradually become a new phenomenon in recent years, which has attracted extensive attention from scholars and the government. Using the national census data and 1% population sampling survey data, this study identified the population decline areas at the county level from 1990 to 2015 from a multi-periodical perspective. Based on the theoretical analysis of the driving factors of population decline, a cluster analysis has been conducted to reveal the spatial differences of the driving factors of population decline, which resulted in four typical cases of causes. The findings are as follows: First, the population decline areas have very different trajectories: while about 24% of them are characterized by fluctuating but overall decline, about 13% of them have experienced continuous decline, and about 5% of them have only experienced recent decline. Second, the fluctuating but overall decline county units were mainly distributed in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and Gansu, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, and Fujian Provinces, and the continuous decline county units were mainly concentrated in Sichuan, Guizhou, Chongqing, and the Northeast region, and the recent decline county units were mainly concentrated in the Northeast region, Henan, and Xinjiang. Third, there are obvious regional differences in the driving factors of population decline: the county units driven by lagged economy accounted for the highest percentage, and these units were mainly distributed in the central and western regions; the county units in the Northeast region were mainly driven by the slowed economic development and the low natural growth level; in contrast, the percentage of county units only driven by the low natural growth level is relatively low, and these units were mainly distributed in the eastern region. Based on these findings, we argue that it is necessary to pay more attention to the phenomenon of population decline at the regional scale, and take targeted measures by fully considering the trend of change and driving factors of population decline in different regions.

Key words: population decline, population change, migration, county-level, China