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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 - 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 (11)

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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China’s official population falls for the first time in decades

Financial Times  online


China’s population fell last year for the first time in decades, a historic shift that is expected to have long-term consequences for the domestic and global economies. … “This is a truly historic turning point, an onset of a long-term and irreversible population decline,” said Wang Feng, [professor of sociology], an expert on Chinese demographic change at the University of California, Irvine.

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China’s Population Falls, Heralding a Demographic Crisis

The New York Times  online


“In the long run, we are going to see a China the world has never seen,” said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine who specializes in China’s demographics. “It will no longer be the young, vibrant, growing population. We will start to appreciate China, in terms of its population, as an old and shrinking population.”

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China’s ‘hidden epidemics’: the preventable diseases that could reshape a nation

The Guardian  online


Wang Feng, professor of sociology at University of California, Irvine, says the pace of change seen in China during the 1980s and 1990s is unlike anything seen anywhere else in history, and that the social and health problems stored up for decades are coming home to roost.

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China’s Covid Exit Hinges on Seniors Who Don’t Want Vaccines

Bloomberg  online


“China really missed an opportunity in the last two years,” said Feng Wang, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has done research on demographic change in China. “In most other countries they started with the elderly, they gave priority to the elderly to get vaccinated. It was only in China the effort was put on vaccinating the younger population.”

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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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