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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Asia Institute


Housing Choices and Changing Residential Patterns in Transitional Urban China

  • Author(s): Huang, Youqin
  • et al.

Aiming to introduce market mechanisms to an administratively managed and heavily subsidized housing system, the ongoing housing reform in urban China has brought dramatic changes in housing provision and consumption. Chinese households have started to enjoy freedom of housing choice that was not possible in socialist China. Yet, their choices are constrained because of the transitional nature of the current housing system where both institutional forces and market mechanisms operate. It is the goal of this research to examine how these two types of forces interact and how households make their housing choices in the transitional housing system. In contrast to the economic and socio-demographic perspectives on housing choices in the Western literature, I argue that a framework incorporating social relationships between the state, work units and employees is needed to understand households’ housing choice in transitional urban China. Associated with housing choices, the homogenous residential pattern in socialist China is gradually changing and a residential sorting is in process. It is also my goal to study the change of residential patterns and its dynamics in urban China.

Four research questions are proposed: (1) What kinds of individual and household characteristics affect housing choice, and how relevant are the existing Western theories? (2) What are the roles of work units in housing choice in transitional urban China? (3) What is the role of the central state in constraining housing choice in transitional urban China? (4) Is a new form of residential pattern emerging? What factors contribute to the change of residential patterns and how relevant are the existing Western theories? A complementary methodology combining both quantitative and qualitative analyses, both national studies and case studies will be employed. The data include a national survey data, in-depth interviews in three cities, and archival data such as housing policies and housing statistics. A multi-level logistic model will be used to examine individual, household, work unit level and state level factors affecting households’ housing choices, and maps on residential patterns will be created.

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