GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2018, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (3): 539-550.doi: 10.11821/dlyj201803007

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Inter-city difference and influencing factors of residents' subjective well-being: A study based on multilevel modelling

Yunxiao DANG1(), Wenzhong ZHANG2,3(), Li CHEN4, Dongsheng ZHAN2,3   

  1. 1. College of Land and Urban-rural Development, Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics, Hangzhou 310018, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. China University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China
    4. College of Applied Arts and Science, Beijing Union University, Beijing 100191, China
  • Received:2017-10-26 Revised:2018-01-27 Online:2018-03-15 Published:2018-03-15
  • About author:

    Author: Shi Zhenqin (1988-), PhD, specialized in regional development and land space management in mountain areas. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Deng Wei (1957-), Professor, specialized in mountain environment and regional development.



During the last three decades, China has been marked by a remarkable economic growth, however, the greatly enriched material life did not promise Chinese an equal level of happiness. It has been proved that Chinese subjective well-being has been decreasing during the progress of high-speed urbanization. Scholars in Western world have conducted abundant research in influencing factors of residents' subjective well-being and evaluation of happy city. There is lack of studies aimed at Chinese residents, especially the systematic analysis of the influence by geographical background effect posed on the residents' subjective well-being. Taking all the prefecture-level cities in the Bohai Rim area as a case study, based on large sample survey questionnaires, objective statistics and census data, this paper analyzed the spatial distribution of subjective well-being at inter-city scale. Happiness function improved by multilevel modeling and GIS-based spatial analysis method are also applied to analyze the influencing factors of residents' subjective well-being. The conclusions are as follows: (1) There is significant disparity of residents' subjective well-being between cities. Most of the cities with more happy samples are in Liaoning province, while those with more unhappy samples are found in the majority of cities in Hebei province except Zhangjiakou and Chengde. (2) Urban scale and economic development are negatively related to residents' subjective well-being. People living in the biggest city are most unhappy with life, however, the high income can weaken the unhappiness. (3) Environment pollution has reduced the residents' subjective well-being, while positive evaluation of natural environment is helpful to improve residents' happiness. (4) Social security and human environment are positively related to the subjective well-being. The widening wealth inequality and urban diseases, such as pollution, traffic jam and housing shortage, should be responsible for the lowest degree of subjective well-being of residents living in the biggest cities. Even so, people are more likely to live in big cities. One possible reason is that the individual may be willing to trade off the subjective well-being for other things including high income, social status and accomplishments. Furthermore, individuals may prefer to take actions enabling to achieve the long-term desires and goals, although some of them could make them less happier at present.

Key words: subjective well-being, spatial difference, multilevel modelling, Bohai rim area