hero image
Wang Feng - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Wang Feng Wang Feng

Professor of Sociology | UC Irvine


Wang Feng is a leading expert on demography, aging, and inequality.




Wang Feng Publication Wang Feng Publication Wang Feng Publication Wang Feng Publication Wang Feng Publication



loading image


Feng Wang: The Implications of China's Demographic Profile Wang Feng: Chinese Society and Economy after the One-Child Policy China After the One-Child Policy




As a leading expert on demography, aging, and inequality, Wang Feng is Professor of Sociology at University of California, Irvine and Professor (invited) at Fudan University, Shanghai. He was a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (2013-2016), Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution (2010-2013), Professor at Tsinghua University (2011-2013) and Invited Visiting Professor at Keio University, Japan. Dr. Wang’s research focuses on social inequality in post-socialist societies, global demographic change and consequences and migration and social reintegration in China. Dr. Wang is the author of multiple award-winning books and is a contributor to leading global media outlets. Dr. Wang’s work has been supported by various funding sources such as Pacific Rim Research Program, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies. He served as the chair of the Department of Sociology at UC Irvine, and as an expert and consultant for the United Nations, World Economic Forum, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Comparative Historical Demography

Contemporary Chinese Society

Social Demography

Social Inequality

Post-Communist Societies

Accomplishments (3)

Book Award, Asia and Asian American Section (professional)

2009 American Sociological Association

Best Book Award (professional)

2012 Japanese Population Association

Allan Sharlin Memorial Award for Best Book in Social Science History (professional)

2000 Social Science History Association

Education (3)

University of Michigan: MA, Sociology 1984

Hebei University, China: BA, Economics 1982

University of Michigan: PhD, Sociology 1987

Affiliations (3)

  • Sociological Research Association : Member
  • International Union for the Scientific Study of Population : Member
  • Population Association of America : Member

Media Appearances (12)

Baby bust: Pandemic accelerates fall in China’s birth rate

Financial Times  online


Beijing dropped the one-child policy in 2016 but that did not reverse the demographic decline — the number of new infants born has fallen every year since then. “This is a slow storm that has gained strength over the past few years,” said Wang Feng, an expert on China’s demographic change [and sociology professor] at the University of California, Irvine, in the US. He said the “historical footprint” left by the policy meant families have grown accustomed to having a single child.

view more

Growing Old in China in the Age of Abundance

Think Global Health  online


Half a century ago, no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined the China of today. Fifty years ago, China was a country where life was lived on the margins of subsistence. Mao Zedong—a communist revolutionary and founder of the People's Republic of China—was still the supreme leader of the land. Under his leadership, three decades of socialist experimentation led to impressive improvements in population health, thanks largely to a public health program and more equitable food distribution. Life expectancy increased by more than twenty years (in as many years), from around 40 to over the age of 60. Yet under Mao's watch, there was virtually no improvement in access to the most basic food supplies, such as grains and vegetable oil. Most Chinese people were living on the edge of poverty.

view more

China Reckons with Its Fatal Conceit, as Birth Rate Falls to Historic Low

Foundation for Economic Education  online


China’s latest census results show an 11.5 percent decline in births compared to 2020. This is the fifth consecutive year of lower births in China. Wang Feng, professor of sociology at the University of California-Irvine, argues these new numbers demonstrate China’s population has peaked: “The year 2021 will go down in Chinese history as the year that China last saw population growth in its long history,” Feng writes in The New York Times.

view more

‘Stop nagging!’: Why China’s young adults are resisting marriage and babies

The Guardian  online


A growing number of young people across east Asian societies are delaying getting married as the region becomes more prosperous. Yet in urban China, this change has been especially swift, said Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. Comparing Chinese census data in 1990 and 2015, Wang said that the share of never-married Chinese women in their late 20s had shot up by eight times in the span of 25 years.

view more

China’s Births Hit Historic Low, a Political Problem for Beijing

The New York Times  online


“The year 2021 will go down in Chinese history as the year that China last saw population growth in its long history,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, adding that the 2021 birthrate was lower than the most pessimistic estimates.

view more

China’s population growth rate falls to 61-year low

The Guardian  online


Prof Wang Feng, from the University of California Irvine and who specialises in Asian demographics, said the results showed the root causes ran deeper than the policymakers realised. “The policies announced last year are mostly rhetoric, or at most like Band-Aids,” he told the Guardian.

view more

‘A sacrifice for a generation’: China scrambles to boost its population with 3-child policy

KCRW  online


Wang Feng, professor of sociology at UC Irvine, says China’s new three-child policy won’t be enough to save the country from a demographic crisis. When the one-child policy was first implemented, Feng says China was focused on increasing the standard of living with the same amount of economic output.

view more

The Real Reason Behind China’s Three-Child Policy

The New York Times  online


More than five years after the Chinese government abandoned its one-child policy, allowing married couples to have two children, it has now announced that they could have up to three.

view more

Why China and east Asia’s ageing population threatens global Covid recovery

UCI News  online


But whatever the policy, it’s already too late, said Prof Wang Feng of University of California Irvine, who specialises in Asian demographics. “Chinese authorities, for example, should have already abandoned its birth control policy. It’s outdated. What China needs is not another state policy, but rather a better and fairer society.” Wang said that there are multiple reasons for east Asia’s population dilemma today, for example the lack of gender equality. In many patriarchal Asian societies, women are still expected to fulfil the roles of housework and child bearing, and this is not easy to change overnight.

view more

China Isn’t Having Enough Babies

The New York Times  online


Fewer babies were born in China last year than in 2017, and already fewer had been born in 2017 than in 2016. There were 15.23 million new births in 2018, down by more than 11 percent from the year before. The authorities had predicted that easing and then abolishing the one-child policy in the mid-2010s would trigger a baby boom; it’s been more like a baby bust.

view more

As China Lifts One-Child Policy, Many Chinese Respond With Snark

NPR  online


Wang Feng, a University of California, Irvine sociologist who studies China's population policies, says the sarcasm with which netizens regard the policy announcement is telling. "I think the message people are sending out it is: 'Look, you guys, the policymakers, are so out of touch with the Chinese public.' "

view more

Bringing an End to a Senseless Policy

The New York Times  online


SHANGHAI — CHINA announced last week that it would loosen its famous “one-child” policy, enforced since 1980. The world’s most controversial birth-control policy, initially imposed as an emergency measure at the start of the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, seems to finally be on its way out, more than a generation later.

view more

Event Appearances (3)

China’s New Demographic Reality and the Era of Immigration: the Case of Shanghai

AAS-in-Asia, Association of Asian Studies  Taipei, China


How Much Can We Learn about Future through Seeing History? -- Population Projections for China since 1980

Population Association of America Annual meeting  San Diego


What’s Behind the Shifting Labor Income Age Profiles in China?

Population Association of America Annual meeting  San Diego


Articles (5)

The Social and Sociological Consequences of China's One-Child Policy

Annual Review of Sociology

China's one-child policy is one of the largest and most controversial social engineering projects in human history. With the extreme restrictions it imposed on reproduction, the policy has altered China's demographic and social fabric in numerous fundamental ways in its nearly four decades (1979–2015) of existence. Its ramifications reach far beyond China's national borders and the present generation.

view more

Changing society, changing lives: Three decades of family change in China

International Journal of Social Welfare

China has witnessed drastic family changes amidst demographic and socioeconomic transitions unprecedented in its history. Using data from three censuses and a national survey, this paper provided a descriptive documentation about the changing patterns in household size and structures from a synthetic life course perspective. By 2010, people below the age of 5 and in their late 20 s and early 60 s were more likely to live in three-generation households than in nuclear households compared with their counterparts in 1982, likely due to needs of childcare.

view more

4 (Re)emergence of Late Marriage in Shanghai: From Collective Synchronization to Individual Choice

Wives, Husbands, and Lovers

Since 1950, age at first marriage has risen noticeably in both affluent OECD nations and in emergent economies throughout the world. Driving this trend are such structural changes as increasing enrollment of women in postsecond-ary education and expansion of white-collar jobs.

view more

Government policy and global fertility change: a reappraisal

Asian Population Studies

The role of government policy in fertility change has been a central inquiry in understanding global demographic changes in the last half century. We return to this inquiry with longitudinal data for over 150 countries from 1976 to 2013 and use fixed-effects models to address common methodological concerns. Our results reveal that while government anti-natalist policies fail to show clear effects for all countries included, they are associated with significantly lower fertility in Asia and Latin America, two regions that have seen the most rapid fertility decline.

view more

Population aging and fiscal challenges in China


The fiscal burden associated with population aging has become an increasingly common concern globally. Rising public spending is driven both by unprecedented population aging and by a shift in resource allocation from the family and kin to the state, accompanied by the development of modern state welfare regimes. Among the countries in the world facing the challenges of a rising fiscal burden, China, with its rapidly aging population and its large-scale welfare expansion, is a case in point.

view more