Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 76 ›› Issue (2): 326-340.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202102006

• Population and Urban Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatial evolution characteristics and driving forces of Chinese highly educated talents

GU Hengyu(), SHEN Tiyan()   

  1. School of Government, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2019-03-27 Revised:2020-08-01 Online:2021-02-25 Published:2021-04-25
  • Contact: SHEN Tiyan;
  • Supported by:
    National Social Science Foundation of China(17ZDA055);National Natural Science Foundation of China(71733001)


Talents are the core driving force for regional innovation and development, and they are also the key to urban competition in the future. Based on the data of the sixth population census and the national 1% population sampling survey in 2015, this paper uses the concentration index (CI), Gini index (GI) and several related spatial analysis methods to examine the spatial patterns of highly educated talents across China and the drivers behind these patterns from 2010 to 2015. The results are as follows: (1) Talents show highly concentrated and unbalanced spatial distribution patterns at the city level over the five years, but the trend of concentration and imbalance has gradually eased. Results from standard deviation ellipse (SDE) indicate that the distribution direction of highly educated people is "NE-SW". Furthermore, there is a significant spatial spillover effect in the distribution of talents, with three major urban agglomerations of China as the highlands. (2) Economic opportunities are the dominant drivers for the distribution of highly educated talents in China. Among them, wages are the core driver, and gross GDP and industrial structure of each city also exert a significant impact. (3) After controlling the impacts of economic opportunities, local quality variables represented by basic public services (e.g., education and medical care), transportation accessibility and urban consumption facilities play an important role in the distribution of highly educated talents. (4) There are significant differences between the driving factors for talents in urban agglomerations and non-urban agglomerations: economic opportunities are the main driving force for the distribution of talents in both urban agglomerations and non-urban agglomerations, while local qualities including education, consumption, transportation and natural environment have a more significant impact on the distribution of talents in urban agglomerations. This study provides references for the formulation of urban and regional talent policies and regional development policies.

Key words: highly educated talents, spatial patterns, driving forces, prefecture-level cities, China