East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

(Nov. 25) Matthew Kahn, “Air Pollution Progress in Urban China” and “Ghost Towns and China’s High Speed Rail”




“Air Pollution Progress in Urban China” 


“Ghost Towns and China’s High Speed Rail” 

Matthew Kahn

Professor of Economics and Business

John Hopkins University



Nov. 25th, Mon 4:30-6:00 pm

Tea Room, Social Science Research Building (2nd floor).

Refreshment will be provided




Air Pollution Progress in Urban China

Using city level panel data from China covering fifteen years, this paper describes trends in ambient particulate matter across three types of cities.  Using data on each city’s population, the paper then describes the population’s exposure to air pollution in the base year and the final year of the study.  In the final section of the paper, several hypotheses are tested for explaining the observed pollution dynamics.

Ghost Towns and China’s High Speed Rail

The Chinese Central Government has spent billions of dollars on High Speed Rail extending these lines deep into the periphery of major cities. The Western Media (see the New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/business/global/20ghost.html) has declared that these sunk investments have often been wasteful as “Ghost Cities” have emerged that feature infrastructure and housing towers but no people.  This paper uses the investment under uncertainty framework from economics and finance to model the “option value” of constructing such Ghost Cities.  We use a novel source of Big Data to measure when such towns become more lively featuring people and economic activity.   Using basic ideas from urban economics, we form hypotheses concerning under what economic conditions do such Ghost Town options activate and become thriving small cities.

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* Abstract or description of each presentation will be posted on our website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia

* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Yuchen Yang: yucheny@uchicago.edu and Linzhuo Li: linzhuoli@uchicago.edu

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The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.

Attachments area


Kahn, Matthew – Air Pollution Progress in Urban China + Ghost Towns and China’s High Speed Rail

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