Prof. Wei Chu published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
(2022-09-13 22:09:52)

Prof. Wei Chu’s team from the School of Applied Economics of Renmin University of China (RUC) and scholars from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) on September 6th published their research result, an article named Aging, generational shifts, and energy consumption in urban China on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, a leading international academic journal.

Han Xiao, a PhD student in the School of Applied Economics, is the first author of the paper, and Professor Wei Chu is the corresponding author. The paper is the first research paper published in PNAS by a social science scholar from RUC as the lead author.


Aging is a common challenge for countries around the globe. Due to the heterogeneity of preferences across age groups, aging also profoundly affects the size and structure of consumer demand. The average age of the population or the proportion of the old population is often used in existing models to characterize the population, which may ignore the differences in values, preferences, behaviors and attitudes between generations due to different birth and growth backgrounds, and in turn lead to biased demand forecasts.

China has a large elderly population and is accelerating into an aging society, with 26.1% of the total population expected to be over 65 years old in 2025; at the same time, China’s social development has undergone significant institutional changes that will impact the social values and consumption preferences of residents in different periods, and these intergenerational cultural shifts will reshape family-based consumption patterns.


Dynamic changes in environmental awareness and energy use habits rooted in generations and age cohorts can affect energy consumption. However, existing studies on the impact of demographic transitions on energy consumption have either ignored these changes or treated age structure in a simplified manner that has confounded generational effects. In this paper, it’s found that growth in the elderly population is likely to substantially increase China’s energy consumption, largely influenced by generational shifts in the ensuing decades. The analysis provides quantitative assessments and insights into the links between population aging, generational shifts, and residential energy consumption, suggesting that ignoring the effects of age and generational shifts will result in a significant underestimation of total future energy demand.


China is recognized as the largest energy consumer and is also the country with the largest and fastest-aging population. Ongoing demographic changes may reshape China’s household-based energy consumption patterns because of the large gap in consumption behavior between the elderly and the young as well as varying attitudes toward the environment among generations. However, when the impact of China’s aging population on energy consumption is projected, the heterogeneous cognitive norms of generations in the process of demographic transition are not well understood. The study assessed the future impact of China’s demographic transition on energy consumption using a proposed theoretical framework to distinguish between age and generational effects. Specifically, the age–period–cohort (APC) detrended analysis was used to estimate age and generational effects based on China’s urban household survey data from 1992 to 2015.

The results indicated large differences in energy use propensity across ages and generations. The elderly and younger generations tended to be energy-intensive consumers, resulting in higher energy consumption in this aging society. The results consequently show that future changes in China’s elderly population will result in a substantial increase in energy consumption. By 2050, the changing consumption share of the elderly population will account for ∼17 to 26% of total energy consumption in the residential sector, which is close to 115 million tons of standard coal (Mtce). These findings highlight theneed to interlace environmental education policies and demographic transitions to promote energy conservation behavior in children and youth for low-carbon, sustainable development.

Fig.1 Influence mechanism of demographic transition on energy consumption.

Fig.2 Projection results. (A) Changes in residential energy consumption caused by demographics. (B) Contribution of population, household size, and generational effects in projected residential energy consumption. (CE) Projected proportion of changes in residential energy consumption for the elderly across each age group. (C) Coal consumption. (D) Electricity consumption. (E) Gas consumption.

For more details,please refer to

Copyright © 2005-2022 RUC.EDU.CN
Add:No. 59 Zhongguancun Street, Haidian District Beijing, 100872, P.R. China Tel: 86-10-62511081/1083/1084 E-mail:
Site designed by MONOKEROS & powered by Sina App Engine