Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 235–266 | Cite as

Run away? Air pollution and emigration interests in China

  • Yu QinEmail author
  • Hongjia Zhu
Original Paper


This paper investigates the impact of air pollution on people’s interest in emigration. Using an online search index on “emigration” which is positively correlated with its search volume, we develop a city-by-day measurement of people’s emigration sentiment. We find that searches on “emigration” will grow by approximately 2.3–4.8% the next day if today’s air quality index (AQI) is increased by 100 points. In addition, such an effect is more pronounced when the AQI level is above 200, a sign of “heavily polluted” and “severely polluted” days. We also find that such effect differs by destination countries and by metropolitan areas.


Emigration Air pollution China Online searches 

JEL Classification

Q53 Q56 R23 



We are grateful to Sumit Agarwal, Yongheng Deng, Shuaizhang Feng, Shihe Fu, Xiaobo Zhang, Klaus F. Zimmermann (the Editor), two anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at the National University of Singapore for their valuable comments and suggestions. Thanks to Qingyue Open Environmental Data Center ( for support on Environmental data processing. Qin acknowledges financial support from the Academic Research Fund - Tier 1 (WBS: R-297-000-129-133). Zhu acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project 71603103). All remaining errors are ours.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This study was funded by Ministry of Education, Singapore (grant number R-297-000-129-133) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 71603103).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Real EstateNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Institute for Economic and Social ResearchJinan UniversityGuangzhouChina

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