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Wang Feng - UC Irvine. Irvine, CA, US

Wang Feng

Professor of Sociology | UC Irvine


Wang Feng is a leading expert on demography, aging, and inequality - particularly in China.




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



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China After the One-Child Policy Feng Wang: The Implications of China's Demographic Profile Wang Feng: Chinese Society and Economy 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 (6)


Post-Communist Societies

Social Inequality

Social Demography

Contemporary Chinese Society

Comparative Historical Demography

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 (15)

How China Is Tackling a Population Crisis

Newsweek  online


Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and a leading expert on demography, aging and inequality, told Newsweek that the population decline in the world's most populous country is historical and unprecedented. "It is long-term, irreversible, and deep," he said. "By one projection of the United Nations, by the end of this century China may have a population size that's barely above half of what it is now," he continued. "And along the way China will be joining the oldest populations in the world.”

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China is facing a brutal reality as it desperately tries to fix its population decline problem

Business Insider  online


Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, whose research areas include modern Chinese society, says that officials have known for a long time that the demographic crisis would come — albeit not as quickly as it has — and that the regime has been slow to act toward a solution. … "Young people are laughing at the government for believing that it actually can ask people what to do and what not to do," Wang said, pointing to the failure of the country's one-child policy. A solution for China's demographic crisis likely won't come through a few policy initiatives, Wang argued.

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Newsletter: On our radar: ‘Dragon babies’

The New York Times  online


The year of the dragon, which begins next month and occurs every 12 years, has historically seen a spurt of so-called dragon babies. … Women of childbearing age in China, who are having fewer babies than their parents, if any at all, are less likely to believe in the old superstitions. “In the past there have been higher births in auspicious zodiac years,” Wang Feng, an expert on Chinese demographics at the University of California, Irvine, told The Financial Times. “But given the pessimistic economic outlook and pessimism among young people, I doubt we will see a noticeable rebound this year.”

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China's population declines for the 2nd year in a row

NPR  online


NPR's Scott Detrow talks with Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine, about the consequences of China's population decline. [Feng said] “The accelerating decline is driven by three forces. … The most interesting parts are the next two. One is that in the last three decades, young people - men and women, especially women - are postponing and leaving marriage. And then third factor in terms of low birth rate is even for those married women and men, they are choosing either not having children or staying with only one child. So combined you have this declining birth number year after year.”

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China’s population decline accelerates as economy reaches low growth target

Financial Times  online


Wang Feng, an expert on Chinese demographics at the University of California, Irvine, said the decline of 2mn people revealed the “footprint of Covid-19”, which spread through the country in early 2023 after authorities hastily lifted the anti-pandemic measures. … “It is very likely that the rapid increase in number of deaths comes from the chaotic ending of zero-Covid, which led to many excess deaths,” Wang of the University of California said.

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China Is Pressing Women to Have More Babies. Many Are Saying No.

The Wall Street Journal  online


Chinese women have had it. Their response to Beijing’s demands for more children? No. Fed up with government harassment and wary of the sacrifices of child-rearing, many young women are putting themselves ahead of what Beijing and their families want. … Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, said there have been two conflicting shifts in Chinese society: a rising awareness of women’s rights and increasingly patriarchal policies.

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Xi Jinping Is Fighting a Culture War at Home

The Atlantic  online


The Marx and Confucius [television] show is just one small part of Xi’s campaign to fashion a new ideological conformity in China. Its apparent aim is to foster unity in preparation for struggles at home and abroad—but with the ultimate purpose of tightening Xi’s grip on China. Chinese leaders “want to have a very powerful, socialist, ideological framework that can congeal the population, and this is of course under the party’s control and guidance,” Wang Feng, a sociologist at UC Irvine, told me. “What’s a more powerful way to centralize power than to control people’s thought?”

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Why China’s Young People Are Not Getting Married

The New York Times  online


The share of women age 25 to 29 in urban China who have never been married rose to 40.6 percent in 2020 from 8.6 percent in 2000, according to an analysis by Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine.

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China’s population is shrinking. It faces a perilous future.

National Geographic  online


China has reached a tipping point. Even by the government’s own reckoning, its population shrank last year—the beginning of a long fall that demographers predict will persist for the rest of the century. The main reason: China’s birth rate has plummeted to its lowest level since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. … “This is an unprecedented, historical decline,” says Wang Feng, a sociologist at the University of California, Irvine. “By the end of the century, China will be quite unrecognisable in terms of what we know about China’s history and position in the world.”

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Desperate for Babies, China Races to Undo an Era of Birth Limits. Is It Too Late?

The New York Times  online


Women’s rights advocates have argued that the government’s effort to raise fertility rates risks reinforcing discrimination against women. … “Until China fundamentally transforms its social institutions and has more gender equality, women can vote with their wombs,” said Wang Feng, a professor at the University of California, Irvine who specializes in China’s demographics.

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Single Mothers in China Face Fewer Hurdles as Beijing Tries to Boost Births

The Wall Street Journal  online


In the years since China started actively encouraging couples to have more children, birth numbers have continued to drop. In one response, authorities across China are starting to make it less of an obstacle course for unmarried women to have children. … Giving single mothers birth benefits is one area where the interests of the state and women happen to merge, said Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. “The deeper issue here, beyond fertility, is that China’s young women are trying to push boundaries to protect and expand personal rights,” Prof. Wang said.

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Could Migration Help Ease The World's Population Challenges?

NPR  radio


Wang Feng, sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine explains birth rates were already falling in the 1970s, well before China imposed a one-child policy cap in all families. And now the people descended from those generations are also having fewer children, an echo from the past, though for new reasons.” Wang Feng says: “There is the drastic postponement of marriage among young people. That change has accompanied this vast expansion in education, higher education, urbanization and changes in attitudes.

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How China came to regret its one-child policy

Vox  online


Many of these demographic forces are positive, the result of economic growth that has given people, especially women, the freedom to live the life they want, including one with fewer or even no children. But it does mean — as Wang Feng, a sociologist [and professor] at the University of California, Irvine who specializes in Chinese demographics, told the New York Times — “in the long run, we are going to see a China the world has never seen.”

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Why China’s shrinking population is a big deal – counting the social, economic and political costs of an aging, smaller society

The Conversation  online


Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, writes: “Throughout much of recorded human history, China has boasted the largest population in the world – and until recently, by some margin. So news that the Chinese population is now in decline, and will sometime later this year be surpassed by that of India, is big news even if long predicted. … In short, this is a seismic shift. It will have huge symbolic and substantive impacts on China in three main areas.”

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For the first time since 1960, deaths outnumbered births in China last year

NPR  online


Emily Feng says: “Wang Feng is a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. And he explains birth rates were already falling in the 1970s, well before China imposed a one-child policy cap in all families. And now, the people descended from those generations are also having fewer children; an echo from the past, though, for new reasons.” Wang Feng: “There is the drastic postponement of marriage among young people. That change has accompanied this vast expansion in education - higher education - urbanization and changes in attitudes.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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