It is of great significance to investigate the determinants of urban form for shaping sustainable urban form. Previous studies generally assumed the determinants of urban form did not vary across spatial units, without taking spatial heterogeneity into account. In order to advance the theoretical understanding of the determinants of urban form, this study attempted to examine the spatial heterogeneity in the determinants of urban form for 289 Chinese prefecture-level cities using a geographically weighted regression (GWR) method. The results revealed the spatially varying relationship between urban form and its underlying factors. Population growth was found to promote urban expansion in most Chinese cities, and decrease urban compactness in part of the Chinese cities. Cities with larger administrative areas were more likely to have dispersed urban form. Industrialization was demonstrated to have no impact on urban expansion in cities located in the eastern coastal region of China, which constitutes the country’s most developed regions. Local financial revenue was found to accelerate urban expansion and increase urban shape irregularity in many Chines cities. It was found that fixed investment exerted a bidirectional impact on urban expansion. In addition, urban road networks and public transit were also identified as the determinants of urban form for some cities, which supported the complex urban systems (CUS) theory. The policy implications emerging from this study lies in shaping sustainable urban form for China’s decision makers and urban planners.
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