||Nighttime light data have been proven to be valuable for socioeconomic studies. However, they are not only affected by anthropogenic factors but also by physical factors, and previous studies have rarely examined these diverse variables in a systematic way that explains differences in nighttime lights across different cities. In this paper, hierarchical linear models at two levels of city and province were developed to investigate the nighttime lights effect on cross-level factors. An experiment was conducted for 281 prefecture cities in Mainland China using orbital satellite data in 2016. (1) There exist significant differences among city average lights, of which 49.9% is caused at the provincial level, indicating the factors at the provincial level cannot be ignored. (2) Economy-energy-infrastructure and demography factors have a significant positive lights effect. Meanwhile, industry-information and living-standard factors at the provincial level can further significantly increase these differences by 18.30% and 29.01%, respectively. (3) The natural-greenness factor displayed a significant negative lights effect, and its interaction with natural-ecology will continue to decrease city lights by 11.99%. However, artificial-greenness is an unreliable city-level factor explaining lights variations. (4) As for the negative lights effect of elevation and latitude, these become significant in a multivariate context and contribute lights indirectly. (5) The two-level hierarchical linear models are statistically significant at the level of 10%, and compared with the null model, the explained variances on city lights can be improved by 70% at the city level and 90% at the provincial level in the final mixed effect model.