Despite the choking smog, Beijing is still the number one choice for graduate job seekers based on its "soft environment", according to a report published Tuesday.
Researchers at the Center for China and Globalization and education consultancy MyCOS analyzed responses from 20,000 graduates.
They found that the Chinese capital was the preferred choice for finding work based on social environment, economic development, infrastructure, consumption habits and internationalized atmosphere.
Shenzhen, Shanghai and Guangzhou were their next choices.
Graduates on average were likely to turn down a job in a smaller city that paid up to 1,120 yuan more a month to stay in Beijing, the report said.
For Shenzhen and Shanghai, the offer to relocate would have to exceed 1,000 yuan a month, or to move to Guangzhou it would have to be 441 yuan better a month.
The report included only cities with a population of at least 1 million.
Miao Lyu, secretary-general of the think tank, said the report can be instructive for city administrators who want to draw talent.
Wang Boqing, founder of MyCOS and an expert in college graduate employment, said although metropolises are still top choices for graduates to work in, the past three years have seen more university and college students work in prefecture-level cities, or even smaller cities, suggesting more are choosing to avoid the pressure of big cities.