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HKU-Cambridge Joint Seminar series 2022

Field and Natural Experiments

Housing, Transport, Health

8 & 17 June 2022

Event 1: 10:00am -12:00pm UK time / 5:00-7:00pm HK time, 8 June 2022

School Catchment Zone Mergers and Housing Wealth Redistribution

This study investigates how perceived school quality affects housing values, using a new estimation method. Our empirical design takes advantage of the mergers of school catchment zones initiated by the government to develop quasi-experiments. We find that, in zones that gained sudden access to higher ranked schools, housing prices increased by 1.3 to 4.1 percent. Larger and more expensive houses appreciated more in response to the improvement in perceived quality of available schools. The findings generate important policy implications regarding housing wealth redistribution and housing expenditures among different households. The study also enriches the literature on the capitalization effect of school quality.


Prof. Kelvin Wong

Department of Real Estate and Construction,
The University of Hong Kong

Rail transit and the growth of urban amenities in Chinese cities

Cities are attractive for many reasons, and the richness of urban amenities is one of them. This study examines how the clusters of private urban amenities are affected by rail transit investment based on the experiences of six Chinese cities that are in different stages of rail transit development. Using geocoded private amenity data, a difference-in-differences model is designed to estimate the rail transit effects from a sample 315 new stations opened during 2015 and 2018. Our results show that the opening of a new rail transit station induces a growth of approximately 4% in the number of urban amenities in the neighborhood of the station within one year of its opening. The impact strengthens substantially after two years. The rail transit effect varies across cities and over different neighborhoods within a city. In most cities, the rail transit effects are stronger in central areas, contributing to agglomeration of urban amenities. However, when the rail system expands extremely rapidly, the opening of a new station triggers greater growth in the suburban, leading to a decentralization effect. In addition, we find limited impacts of neighborhood purchasing power and transit-land joint development on the local amenity growth.

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Dr Christina Li

Department of Land Economy,
University of Cambridge

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Discussant: Dr Ozge Oner

Department of Land Economy,
University of Cambridge

Event 2: 10:00am -12:00pm UK time/5:00-7:00pm HK time,  

21 May, 2021


An artefactual experiment on the performance of agglomeration bonuses in conservation auctions: Lessons from the field

Dr Christina Li


Dr Christina Li

Department of Land Economy

University of Cambridge

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Department of Land Economy,
University of Cambridge

Is hiding my first name enough?
The complexity of racial and gender discrimination in housing markets

Implicit racial and gender biases can shape our behaviours and decisions significantly. For example, health care providers have implicit bias in terms of positive attitudes toward Whites and negative attitudes toward people of colour. Racial and gender discrimination is also prevalent in housing markets. The issue has been so serious that it made national and international headlines regularly. In response to a lawsuit against racial discrimination, Airbnb had to hide guests’ first name from rental hosts in Oregon, USA from January 2022. However, there is little evidence that such measurement is sufficient to combat racial and gender discrimination in housing markets. The objective of this study is to investigate whether behavioural interventions can effectively prevent racial and gender discrimination in rental housing markets. We conducted correspondence tests in the rental housing market in London, UK. We designed two behavioural interventions based on the taste-based discrimination theory and the statistical discrimination theory. Specifically, we provided employment information to help landlords to overcome statistical discrimination and included anti-discrimination messages to nudge landlords to adhere to social norm. Our empirical evidence shows that behavioural interventions worked. Both employment information and anti-discrimination messages reduced racial and gender discrimination significantly. However, anti-discrimination messages helped Polish, Indian, and Nigeran applicants by increasing their chance of getting a response from landlords, but hurts Asian applicants greatly. Also, the employment information intervention actually aggregated gender discrimination.  


Racial and gender discrimination in housing markets is a complex issue and the landscape is ever changing. Hiding one’s first name is far from enough to solve the problem. We conclude by calling for more empirical studies to verify our findings by using data from housing markets in other parts of the world. 

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Department of Urban Planning and Design,
Urban Analytics and Interventions Research Lab,
The University of Hong Kong

Metro and Health of Older People: A Natural Experiment in Hong Kong

Public transport accessible to older people may offer a transformative solution to achieving healthy ageing. However, the evidence to support such transport infrastructure modifications is unclear. Previous studies on public transport use and elderly health were mostly observational studies using cross-sectional data. Few studies have examined the before-and-after effects of a new metro, for example, to see if it improves elderly health.

We use a new metro line in Hong Kong as a natural experiment to examine the impact of the metro-led public transport intervention on elderly health. In Hong Kong, more than 90% of daily travel is made by public transport. The public transport modifications consist of the new metro line with eight stations and changes in the walking environment and bus services around the stations. We will look at the before-and-after differences in public transport use and health outcomes between elderly participants living in treatment neighbourhoods (400 m walking buffered areas of the new metro stations) and in control groups (living in comparable areas but unaffected by the new metro). Questionnaire-based baseline data were collected in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, while some qualitative interviews are ongoing. Amid the pandemic, we conducted a quick telephone-based survey of COVID-19’s potential impact on public transport use behaviours of our elderly cohort in September 2020. After the new metro opened in June 2021, we conducted a follow-up survey in December 2021. 

We aim to investigate if the new metro and the associated changes in the built environment affect public transport use behaviours, physical activity and wider health outcomes among the elderly (e.g., social inclusion, quality of life, subjective well-being). The research project collects practice-based evidence to enable future evidence-based planning for healthy ageing cities.

Faculty of Architecture 
The University of Hong Kong

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Event 2: 10:00am -12:00pm UK time / 5:00-7:00pm HK time, 17 June 2022

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