I am specialized in family, gender, and population research. Within these broader areas, my research focuses on the following topics: (1) the construction and reorganization of gender inequality through romantic relationships, (2) gender inequalities that undertake during the transition to adulthood, specifically during the transition to the labor market, and (3) gender inequality in non-heterosexual marriages. I examine these themes in primary and secondary research in China, the United States, and other East Asian societies. My research utilizes a range of methodologies, including age-period-and-cohort analysis, latent class analysis, survival analysis, cross-national comparative methods, and in-depth interview analysis.

For more detailed descriptions of my research projects, please click on the following tabs.

Recent publications:

Lian, Langou "Changing Times, Shifting Attitudes: Explaining Americans’ Attitudes towards Same-Sex Relations from 1973 to 2018." Forthcoming. Sociological Forum

Articles in Progress:

Lian, Langou, Feng Wang. “Two Societies, One Future? Economic Independence and Outlook for Future among Young Adults in the U. S. and China.” Under review at International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Lian, Langou, Jianmin Shao. “The "Nominal" Wives in Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Marital Relationship Qualities, Social Support, and Mental Health among Tongqi in China.” Under review at Journal of Family Issues.

Dissertation Research

My dissertation uses both in-depth interviews and large-scale survey datasets to examine how romantic relationships perpetuate gender inequality among young adults in contemporary China. This project highlights the contradictions of recent women's liberation in contemporary China. Riding the globalization wave since the late 1970s, the rapid social and economic changes pave the way for the present-day gender liberalization in China, such as the vast participation of the One-Child Generation women in higher education and labor forces. Drawing on the theory of gender-separate spheres (Davis and Greenstein 2009), my study examines gender inequality beyond women's achievement in these public spheres. Being one of the countries that caught between the global influences and the enduring traditional culture, China provides an interesting setting to examine if the forces of gender liberalization have extended to young people’s private life. Especially, this dissertation reveals how romantic relationships, as the most ubiquitous form of social relations where gender is most salient, reorganize gendered activities and shape gender ideologies during the transition to adulthood.

I use a mixed-method approach that involves in-depth interviews and secondary data analysis. The interview segment is approved by the UC Irvine IRB (HS#2018-4462). The main interview sites are in Sichuan and Shanghai, two sites that are chosen to compare the One-Child Generation in a metropolitan city and in a less developed area. The secondary data analysis segment of the project uses data from two sources: the Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) from 2010 to 2017, and the Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey (FYRST) from 2013 to 2017. The CGSS is a nationally representative survey that contains questions on gender ideologies, family, and marriage. The FYRST survey focuses on the private lives of the "One-Child Generation" in Shanghai.

The first substantive chapter investigates the links between marriage experiences and gender ideology shifts that are decomposed by gender. I use data from the 2010-2017 Chinese General Social Survey, which is the earliest national representative survey that facilitates research on social changes and social relationships. Utilizing the repeated cross-sectional design of the survey, I perform cohort comparative analysis to underscore the gender belief of young adults that are different from the older generations. I demonstrate that the One-Child Generation has more egalitarian attitudes towards women's rights and participation in the public domain but has more traditional views about women’s role in the private family than the older generations. Besides, the results show that marriage experiences only have a significant association with women’s gender beliefs, and such associations are not found for men. The survey results are also backed by interview analysis with 31 Chinese young adults. I explain in-depth how young men and women with different dating and marriage experiences view their gender roles within and outside of the family. Especially, young women who are married and/or have a child express their desire to focus on their family because they have been burnout by work and hope to slack off from job duties. Compare to what has been found in Western studies, these Chinese young women have low desire to advance in career. They prefer, instead, to channel their energy into supporting their family. An article based on this paper was presented at the 2021 Population Association of America Annual Meeting and the 2021 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. I also received the best presentation award for this work at the 2021 UC Irvine Associated Graduate Students Symposium.

Another dissertation chapter zooms in on the One-Child Generation to investigates how relationship experience moderates gender differences in mate selection criteria. I use the 2013 Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey (FYRST) that was designed to follow individuals who were born in the most urbanized and globalized region in China during the 1980s. Using the latent class method, I identify five major criteria that young people consider as important when selecting male and female marriage partners. The next step of my analysis will identify and explain gender differences in selecting important criteria for a marriage partner.


My collaborative project, with Jianmin Shao, examines the phenomenon of mixed-orientation marriage (MoM) in China using first-hand interviews and survey data. We evaluate the marital relationship quality of heterosexual women and their psychological well-being after discovering their husbands’ sexuality. In particular, we examine the relative importance of marital relationship qualities (i.e., marital satisfaction, marital conflict, and marital commitment) in comparison to social support from friends and parents. The results show that depressive symptoms and loneliness are explained by social support from best friends than measures of marital relationship qualities and parental support. Marital satisfaction was the only significant predictor of life satisfaction. We presented this paper at the 2020 PAA meeting and will submit it shortly for publication.

Transition to Economic Independence in the U. S. and China

In this comparative project, collaborated with Dr. Wang Feng, we examined the transition to economic independence for young adults in the United States and China. This research addressed three questions: First, do young Americans and Chinese perceive their economic independence differently? Second, what are the connections between subjective perceptions of economic independence and objective conditions? Third, in what ways, if any, do young people’s perceived economic independence bear implications for their assessment of the future? To answer these questions, we perform a two-stage analysis to examine and to compare young adults’ economic independence, and to link their self-perceived independence to their views of the future.

The results showed that Young Americans and Chinese differ significantly in their views about the future and in their own assessment of economic independence. While harboring more anxiety toward the future, young Americans also report a higher level of economic independence than their Chinese counterparts. Once controlling for cultural differences in self-assessment and for objective measures of economic independence, however, we find no meaningful difference between American and Chinese young adults in their outlook for the future. The Country-specific analysis further reveals that the seemingly higher optimism among Chinese youths may be traced to that country’s recent economic boom. For American young adults, their sense of economic independence is more grounded in objective measures than their Chinese counterparts. In both societies, the lack of perceived economic independence breeds a common source of pessimism toward the future. This article is currently under review at the International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Americans’ Attitudes towards Same-Sex Relations from 1973 to 2018

Using Age-Period and Cohort analysis, I investigated the nonlinear increase in public approval of same-sex relations during the past half-century. I also demonstrated how attitudes have shifted at different paces for various sociodemographic groups. I found that the surge of public acceptance after the height of the AIDS Epidemic was accompanied by heightened demographic and cultural polarization, with changes in attitudes for Black and for politically and religiously conservative individuals shifting at a much slower pace than their counterparts. I presented this work at the 2020 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting and the 2020 Population Association of America Annual Meeting. It was also recognized with the 2020 Charles A. Lave Prize for Creative Modeling in Social Sciences. This research will appear in a forthcoming issue of Sociological Forum in March 2022.