Urban Development in China: On the Sorting of Skills

Steven Brakman, Shiwei Hu, Charles van Marrewijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


For advanced economies, it is a well-established stylized fact that large cities are relatively skill-abundant. For emerging markets, like China, this relationship is less well-established. We show, using recently developed tests, that also in China higher skills sort into larger locations. This sorting process is consistent with the comparative advantage of cities. We identify two types of spatial units (Core-Cities and Extended-Cities) and analyse sorting for three types of skills (education-skills, sector-skills, and occupation-skills). The sorting process across cities is stronger for Core-Cities than for Extended-Cities, stronger for education-skills than for sector- and occupation-skills, and stronger for 2010 than for 2000. We interpret these results as an indication that investments in, for example, infrastructure and institutional liberalization (such as the relaxation of the Hukou system), stimulates sorting of higher skills in larger cities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-817
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of International Trade and Economic Development
Issue number6
Early online date2 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Asia
  • China
  • agglomeration
  • skill distribution
  • urbanization


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