Guo Chen

Assistant Professor Guo Chen


Guo Chen is Associate Professor of Geography and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University and holds a Ph.D. degree in Geography from Pennsylvania State University, a Master’s degree and a B.S. in Planning from Nanjing University.  Dr. Chen received awards including a prestigious Wilson Center Fellowship in 2017. She is a recipient of the ISS teaching excellence award at MSU. She has authored and co-authored close to forty publications (articles and chapters) with a research focus on inequality, urban poverty, housing, urbanization and land use, urban governance, and social and environmental justice in China, emerging countries, and the Asia-Pacific. Her articles have appeared in PLoS ONE, Scientific Reports, Environment and Planning A, Urban Geography, Urban Studies, CitiesHabitat InternationalActa Geographica Sinica, and many other journals. She co-edited Locating Right to the City in the Global South (Routledge 2013) and “Interrogating unequal rights to the Chinese city” (Special Issue). Her research has been funded by the National Geographic Society, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Urban China Research Network, and MSU (IRGP-New Faculty Grant, CASID, HARP, and DFI). Her current research projects include a new book on China’s urban poverty and a documentary on the hidden slums in China.

Dr. Chen served as secretary, vice-chair, and chair of the China Geography Specialty Group (CGSG) of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), 2012-2015. She is an editorial board member of Journal of Urban Affairs and has served as an ad hoc reviewer for close to 40 academic journals.  She has taught a wide range of undergraduate and graduate-level courses on economic geography and urban geography, globalization, inequality and justice, people and environment, theories and methods in geography, Asia-Pacific and urban China. She has given TV interviews and written op-eds for key policy forums.

Research Interests:

Dr. Guo Chen’s research is on the dynamics, spatial manifestations, and social and environmental consequences of the urban transformations in China and other emerging countries. In particular, her work explores four broad themes: 1) measuring, mapping, and representing the changing landscape of urban poverty and deprivation; 2) identifying the drivers of changing inequalities within and across cities as well as between social groups; 3) evaluating policy responses in housing for the poor and welfare; and 4) theorizing the nexus of urbanization, inequality, and justice in emerging urban contexts.

Trained as an economic geographer, urban planner and spatial analyst, she employs a mixed methodology involving quantitative and qualitative approaches that include intensive field work, household surveys and interviews, and spatial and statistical analyses of a combination of census, socioeconomic statistics, survey data, and remote sensing and land-use data. Her recent studies have added visual materials to gain integrated insights into the socio-spatial, economic, and environmental dimensions of rapid urban changes.

Her dissertation was on the changing landscape of urban poverty in post-reform China. Her prior and current projects include completed projects on urban expansion and inequality in coastal China, an ongoing book project on urban poverty in China, a research project on urbanization, inequality, and socio-environmental justice in coastal and western China, and a visual documentary project on the slum geography in Mainland China and Hong Kong. She also has worked / collaborated on a number of other projects on topics ranging from global financial industry, city and neighborhood governance, and urban environmental issues, to rural-urban migrants and housing issues (stratification, inequality, for the poor, etc.) in China. Her work has continued to focus on poverty, inequality and injustice for the past over ten years.