Measuring urban sustainability through evolutionary paths in socio-environmental structures: Applications to Chinese prefecture cities

Published: 10 May 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/42tyf35x96.1
, Yichun Xie


As of 2015, there were 657 cities in China, including four municipalities directly under the central government, 293 prefecture-level cities, and 360 county-level cities. However, comprehensive fine-scale city statistical data in China are only available at prefecture-level. In addition, there are many autonomous prefectures and leagues in western and northern China. Although they are administratively equivalent to the prefecture-level cities in eastern China, they have low urbanization rates, less developed economies and industries, and sparse population density. They lack statistical data appropriate for measuring urban sustainability. Thus, they are excluded from the case study. As a result, the final dataset includes 278 prefecture-level cities, including 251 in 2000, 267 in 2005, 276 in 2010, and 278 in 2017. The list and explanations of the constructs and measured variables are reported the following table. The list and explanations of measured variables* Dimension Variable Meaning Calculation method ECO gdp Gross domestic product - gdp_p GDP per capita GDP/Population wage Wage - PAT invg_a_p Invention patent applications per capita Invention patent applications/Population umg_a_p Utility mode patent applications per capita Utility mode patent applications/Population desg_a_p Design mode patent applications per capita Design mode patent applications/Population inva_e_p Invention patents authorized per capita Invention patents authorized/Population uma_e_p Utility mode patents authorized per capita Utility mode patents authorized/Population desa_e_p Design mode patents authorized per capita Design mode patents authorized/Population INFOR tele_in_p Telecom business volume per capita Telecom business volume/Population mobile_p Mobile phone per capita Mobile phone users/Population inter_p Internet users per capita Internet users/Population SOR crop_g GDP per unit area of crop land GDP/Area of crop land forest_g GDP per unit area of forest land GDP/Area of forest land water_g GDP per unit area of water land GDP/Area of water land CP no_g GDP per unit NOx emission GDP/NOx emission so_g GDP per unit sulfur dioxide emission GDP/Sulfur dioxide emission dust_g GDP per unit discharge of industrial dusts GDP/industrial dust discharge EDU college_p Colleges per capita Colleges/Population college_t_p Proportion of college teachers per capita college teachers/Population college_s_p Proportion of college students per capita college students/Population TRANS road_p Road area per capita Road areas/Population bus_p Bus per capita Buses/Population taxi_p Taxi per capita Taxies/Population * Patent data is mainly derived from the patent cloud website (, land use data is mainly from the land use database of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (, and other data are mainly from the Online China Urban Statistics Yearbook (



Coupled Human-Natural System, Environmental Modeling, Sustainable Urban Development