Are denser cities greener? Evidence from China, 2000–2010

Rui Wang, Quan Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Whether a city develops into a more compact one with a higher density or a more sprawling one may affect multiple aspects of the urban environment, including ecosystem health, greenhouse gas emissions, and quality of life. Using panel data gathered from China's cities from 2000 to 2010, we take advantage of the significant variation in the temporal change of density across cities to estimate the relationship between gross urban population density and multiple indicators of urban greenness. Fixed-effects estimates support the widely held belief that density improves air quality and reduces the per capita carbon footprint. Results also suggest that higher density reduces the growth of road infrastructure and vehicle ownership and promotes walking. While density often translates into proximity and accessibility, higher density does reduce a city's per capita urban park and green space. This study strengthens the urban policy and planning literature with much needed longitudinal evidence. Our overall findings support higher density as opposed to lower density urban development in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-189
Number of pages11
JournalNatural Resources Forum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Urban density
  • air quality
  • carbon emissions
  • park and green space
  • transportation


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