Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (6): 1002-1017.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201806002

• Urban Research • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Multi-scale assessment of social vulnerability to rapid urban expansion in urban fringe: A case study of Xi'an

HUANG Xiaojun1,2(),WANG Chen1,HU Kaili1   

  1. 1. College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China
    2. Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and Environmental Carrying Capacity, Xi'an 710127, China
  • Received:2017-09-29 Online:2018-06-10 Published:2018-06-04
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401138;The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, No.310827171012


Social vulnerability assessment is an important approach to analyzing the elements of vulnerability, quantifying degree of social vulnerability, and identifying vulnerable spatial units or social groups. Meanwhile, related policies addressing targeted management of social vulnerability are necessary. Therefore, we analyzed the concept and connotations of social vulnerability in four aspects, i.e., disturbance, structure, dimension and scale. We established a framework for social vulnerability assessment that defines the evaluation process, objective, elements, data and method. Based on this framework, we developed a common evaluation index system of social vulnerability according to the three dimensions of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Finally, the social vulnerability assessment framework was applied to the case of the urban fringe of Xi'an, which has undergone rapid urban expansion. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative analyses, we combined data from a statistical yearbook, in-person interviews and household surveys and evaluated multi-scale social vulnerability. The spatial differentiation and types of social vulnerability were displayed according to three scales, i.e., Jiedao, communities and land-lost peasant households. The proportion of Jiedao with a low social vulnerability index was 48%. The social vulnerability index of communities requisitioned by housing estate was the highest, and the social vulnerability index was the lowest in the area of educational function. More than half of the land-lost households lay in the middle range of the social vulnerability index, with fewer households having a high index than those having a low index. With the decline of the scale from Jiedao to household, the low value distribution of the social vulnerability index changed from decentralization to centralization. Meanwhile, we found a significant correspondence at the level of the social vulnerability index between household and community, but not for other levels. Our research highlights the social vulnerability assessment framework involved in the evaluation process, index system, data organization, method and multi-scale assessment. These conclusions could be further explored for theoretical research and practical application of social vulnerability assessment.

Key words: social vulnerability, assessment framework, index system, urban fringe area, land-lost farmers, Xi'an