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Peer-Review Record

Spatiotemporal Evolution and Influencing Factors of Population Growth Transition in China during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sustainability 2022, 14(21), 14602;
by Sheng Zhong 1,*, Mingting Shi 2 and Qiang Xiao 1
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3:
Sustainability 2022, 14(21), 14602;
Submission received: 13 October 2022 / Revised: 30 October 2022 / Accepted: 2 November 2022 / Published: 7 November 2022
(This article belongs to the Topic Sustainability in Aging and Depopulation Societies)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report (Previous Reviewer 3)

1.       The purpose of the article is defined, as “to summarize the spatial differentiation of China’s population growth, analysing the factors that influence its spatial differentiation and thus observing the mechanisms that influence the spatial distribution of China’s population growth at different stages.” Authors expect, that “the research presented in this paper will serve as a reference for the government to optimize fertility incentive policies, and ultimately to help improve China’s population structure”. It is necessary to clarify the optimization criteria for fertility incentive policies, as well as describe the process optimization model, otherwise to reformulate statement.

2.       In the Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4 and Figure 5 the factors’ levels intervals are hard readable, because are not given in percent.

3.       In lines 276 – 279 the websites resources are not listed at the list of the references, as well as are not properly cited according formal requirements.

4.      The title of the Table 3 should be corrected to “Results of descriptive statistics” without “and multicollinearity tests”.

5.       In the Table 4 results of multicollinearity tests indicate that multicollinearity might exist, due the fact that VIF of X5 variable is lies between 4.04 and 5.50 for all years. In this case at least factor X5 (women’s educational achievement) need to be investigated, as well as X4 and X6 for different years.

Author Response

Thank you for your valuable suggestions for this paper. My modification details are as follows:

  1. I perfected the purpose of my study. Following your suggestion, in this paper I focus on the process of optimizing fertility incentive policies and give the optimization criteria, namely, reducing life pressure on young people and sharing their burden of family care.
  2. In Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, and Figure 5, I have used the isometric breakpoint method to redefine the level intervals of the factors so that the group distance in each level interval accounted for 20% of the total distance, which is more readable.
  3. I have added references to network resources in the original lines 276-279 and given appropriate citations at the end of the article.
  4. I have changed the title of Table 3.
  5. I first checked the variable x5. I used the share of women with bachelor's degrees in the employed population as women’s educational achievement, thus reducing the VIF of x5. I then looked at the variable x6 and used the number of Internet access ports divided by the number of permanent residents to calculate Internet coverage, which makes the VIF of x6 more reasonable.

Reviewer 2 Report (Previous Reviewer 2)

The paper has been well-updated and I recommend it for publication 

If possible add these references 



1.      M. Abdelhakem, D. Baleanu, P. Agarwal, H. Moussa, Approximating system of ordinary differential- algebraic equations via a derivative of Legendre polynomials operational matrices, Int. J. Mod. Phys. C, (2022)

2.      M. Abdelhakem, A. Ahmed, D. Baleanu, M. El-Kady, Monic Chebyshev pseudospectral differentiation matrices for higher-order IVPS and BVPS: Applications to certain types of real-life problems, Comput. Appl. Math., 41, 253 (2022).

Author Response

Thank you for your comments on this paper. I have already quoted from one of the references you have provided.

Reviewer 3 Report (Previous Reviewer 1)

The work is well-presented and merits publication. I have a few suggestions to be made before it proceeds with publication.

1.     The abstract is irrelevantly long. Try to be precise about it. Eliminate a few words from the background.

2.     There is one point still lacking in the background and that is the insufficiency of literature support. Not at every point, but at some points, authors claims such as “Many scholars believe……” and only one reference is given. Please revise.

3.     I can still find a few grammatical errors to be addressed.


4.     The rest of the paper has no major flaws. 

Author Response

Thank you for your valuable suggestions for this paper. My modification details are as follows:

  1. I condensed the abstract and removed some words or short sentences.
  2. I have revised the statement about "Many scholars believe..." ", changed to be more specific, and added the appropriate reference. This sentence is actually the view of a literature, but I did not express it well. Thank you for reminding me to make this sentence more readable.
  3. I again invite the language editor to find and revise some grammatical errors.

Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report (Previous Reviewer 3)

The article can be accepted in present form

This manuscript is a resubmission of an earlier submission. The following is a list of the peer review reports and author responses from that submission.

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The manuscript is very confusing with some serious issues. Therefore, the following points need to be addressed for further approval.

1.     Line 11-12, the authors need to rewrite the first sentence. “The following problem … so on.” The start of an abstract never starts with a phrase like this.

2.     The background of the abstract is irrelevantly long. Make it precise and short.

3.     In addition, the authors should mention how the data was retrieved, what was the period of the analyzed data, what were the protocols to collect data, and what methodology adopted to conduct this study.

4.     The conclusion part of the abstract is fragmented and needs another effort to rewrite.

5.     Line 35-51, the authors have provided some claims without any literature evidence. I could not find any supportive evidence within these lines.

6.     Line 52-57, the authors have mentioned that scholars have conducted “studies” however, only one reference is given which is unjustified.

7.     In conclusion, the introduction and literature are inadequate. The authors must make significant efforts to connect their concepts to develop arguments that are backed by literature.

8.     Under table 1, define CNY.

9.     Figure 2 should be backed up by a reference.

10.  The same is the case with figure 3, figure 4, and figure 5.

11.  In the data source, there must be a direct link to the website from where the data was fetched, if publicly available.

12.  Line 284, what are x and y variables? the authors have used them without defining them.

13.  Line 305, what are x1 and x2?

14.  The present study findings are not adequately corroborated by prior literature which is a serious flaw.

15.  The discussion is not strong enough and the authors have suddenly jumped to the conclusion part


16.  There are plenty of grammatical errors along with sentence structuring which requires a professional to fix it. 

Author Response

Thank you very much for your suggestions and inspiration. Your opinions are extremely valuable to this paper. My co-authors and I have carefully revised each of your suggestions.

1.We have made comprehensive revisions to the Abstract, mainly including:

(1) I rewrote the first sentence to avoid unreasonable phrases.

(2) I simplified the background in the Abstract.

(3) I explained in detail the source of paper data, analysis cycle and protocols in the Abstract.

(4) I specify the use of geographic detector model to study the influence mechanism.

2.The original line 35-51, I added the corresponding references.

3.The literature review in the introduction is supplemented and modified, mainly including:

(1) In the original line 52-57, I gave more reasonable references to the relevant research mentioned in this paper.

(2) I made a comprehensive revision of the literature review to make this part closely focus on the theme of population growth and aging, so as to provide more powerful arguments for the paper.

4.Data and methods have been revised.

(1) I have given the link to the website to obtain the data in Data Sources.

(2) I have defined x and y on the current lines 237 and 299.

(3) In the current line 319-327, I deleted x1 and x2 and replaced them with xi and xj to denote various independent variables.

5.Other parts that have been modified:

(1) I optimized the independent variables to make them better pass the multicollinearity test.

(2) CNY in Table 1 is no longer needed and has been deleted.

(3) In Figure 2, a reference is given by inserting a footnote. Figure 3, Figure 4 and Figure 5 are also applicable.

(4) I fleshed out the discussion.

(5) We invited TopEdit ( for its linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

Reviewer 2 Report

The paper is interesting but there are small comments :

The English should be improved 

The novelty of the article should be justified. The authors should clarify both the novelty and main contribution of the paper?

Please define acronyms the first time they appear in the text

The paper needs to be carefully edited

The conclusion and the abstract are good , just small rewritting



Author Response

Thank you very much for your suggestions and inspiration. Your opinions are extremely valuable to this paper. My co-authors and I have carefully revised each of your suggestions.

1.We invited TopEdit ( for its linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

2.We clarify the novelty and main contributions in lines 133-140 of the paper.

3.We have addressed issues such as acronyms in the paper.

4.We edited the paper and worked out a lot of details.

Reviewer 3 Report

1.      The authors put forward the statement “The government should help young people establish scientific values of love, marriage and family”. It is surprising that love has scientific value, is it possible to clarify this statement?

2.      In the abstract of the article authors declare “Therefore, it is of great significance to analyse the changing characteristics and influence of China's population growth at the current stage, which can help improve China's population structure and preserve the advantage of human resource endowment”, as well as in the introduction authors defined that “optimizing the age structure of the population to cope with population aging is the focus of China's population development”. Unfortunately, the purpose of the article is not clearly defined, only promise to analyse “the spatio-temporal evolution of China's population growth by using the data of China's Seventh Census and COVID-19 pandemic, and then used the Geographic Detector Model to explore the causal mechanism of the spatio-temporal evolution”.

3.      In the Figure 1 on OY axis should be “Birth” not “Brith”

4.      In the Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4 and Figure 5 the factors’ levels intervals are not described. Is not clear, what is the first – level, second-level, …, fifth-level for eight factors x1, .., x8.  The visual evaluation of factors trend is not obvious and should be additionally estimated.

5.      Despite the fact, that “study selects cross-section data from four years, namely 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020”, descriptive statistics and multicollinearity tests have been made only for data of 2020.

6.      Authors concluded, that “all variables have passed the multicollinearity test”, because “the VIF values of these variables are all within 10”. However, a VIF above 4 indicates that multicollinearity might exist, and further investigation is required. In this case at least four factors need to be investigated.

7.      The recommendations are general and don’t’ give answer, how optimize and improve existing policies.

Author Response

Thank you very much for your suggestions and inspiration. Your opinions are extremely valuable to this paper. My co-authors and I have carefully revised each of your suggestions.

  1. We have removed unreasonable statements such as "the government helps young people establish a scientific view of love," and defined the pursuit of love and marriage as self-fulfilling behaviors.
  2. We clearly define the research purpose of the article in lines 132-138.
  3. We fixed the typos in Figure 1.
  4. We have replotted Figs. 2, 3, 4, and 5 to show directly the level intervals of the factors.
  5. We supplemented the results of the multicollinearity test for the other three years.
  6. I optimized the independent variables to better pass the multicollinearity test.
  7. We rewrote most of the recommendations to make them more specific and targeted.
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