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Expand Big Cities To Increase Birthrate: Analysis

Two experts make the case for bigger cities

By Xu Mouquan Updated Jun.12

The best performers in China's workforce talent contest – including Chengdu in the southwest and Xi'an in the central-northwest – have seen their house prices rise sharply. Now, they're hurrying to enact purchase limiting measures. But two experts on population studies argue that the fundamental solution lies in expanding big cities to make life there affordable for young people.
Rising house prices have forced China's youth to move to smaller cities, dampening the already meager birth rate in larger ones. Expanding China's cities through increased land supply and infrastructure will tame housing prices and living costs, argue Liang Jianzhang, an economist from Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, and Huang Wenzheng, a demographer at the Centre for China and Globalization, in a new column for Caixin.com. Such a policy would also retain young people in cities hence increasing their birthrates. 

The researchers argue Chinese cities – even first-tier ones like Beijing – are still relatively small from an economic perspective. That these two megacities have had to adopt stringent measures to curb their rising populations reflects that their real communities are smaller than those in a natural equilibrium – in other words, they can accommodate more people. Equally notable is that China has what it takes to develop more infrastructure in cities, and a more substantial aggregation of people is conducive to improving overall efficiency. 

China’s largest cities are not short of land. Shanghai’s more than 1,800 square kilometers of arable land, if used to improve the living environment, will produce greater value than agriculture. Enabling youths to buy homes and settle in large cities, instead of buying in their hometown, will conserve land on a national scale and promote population mobility, the researchers conclude.