SCIENTIA GEOGRAPHICA SINICA ›› 2017, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (4): 512-518.doi: 10.13249/j.cnki.sgs.2017.04.004

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The Interaction Between Urban Spatial Structure and Economic Development

Tinglin Zhang(), Bindong Sun()   

  1. Center for Modern Chinese City Studies /School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2016-06-20 Revised:2016-08-21 Online:2017-04-25 Published:2017-04-25
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China (41471139), The MOE Project of Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Universities (16JJD790012),Shanghai Social Science Foundation (2014BCK003)


Urban spatial structure is believed to be born out of socio-economic development, so it is subject to the stage of economic development, and also influences the economic activities. The interactive relationship between spatial structure and economic development has always been the core issue of economic geography. Exploring this relationship helps to optimize the urban spatial structure and benefit economic performance. Previous related studies are abundant with theoretical descriptions, but lack of empirical supports, and some mechanisms are not elaborated clearly enough. This article examines the interaction between spatial structure and economic development with econometric models. Traditional linear regression models with single equation can only test one-way relationship, this study uses structural equation models to estimate the relationship between several dependent variables such as urban labor productivity, population and polycentricity from an overall perspective. The results show that: 1) Most Chinese cities have entered the stage of morphologically polycentric spatial structure; 2)There exists an interactive causal relationship between spatial structure and economic development; 3) The polycentricity is driven by urban population size, rather than economic growth. The concrete circular causality between spatial structure and economic development is as follows, the population expands with the economic development, then promotes the formation of polycentric spatial structure probably driven by the rise of agglomeration diseconomy; the increasing polycentricity improves the urban labor productivity likely due to the weakened agglomeration diseconomy. In addition, the polycentric spatial structure is also closely related to high second industry ratio and proportion of small firms; and urban population is depended on the historical population and industrial structure, higher ratio of second industry and more population in 1953 lead to bigger size of urban population. These findings have important policy implications for optimizing urban spatial strategies in China. Overall, polycentricity should be encouraged by urban spatial policies in China. Moreover, considering that the population size rather than economic growth boosts the polycentricity, for megacities like Beijing and Shanghai or cities in developed coastal areas, the polycentric strategy can be used to reduce agglomeration diseconomy and improve economic performance; for small and medium-sized cities or cities in less developed middle and west China, policy should also be conducted to decrease the external diseconomies of agglomeration, the mono-centric spatial structure can still benefit the economic performance there.

Key words: spatial structure, economic development, interactive relationship, structural equation model

CLC Number: 

  • F129.9/K902