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Russia's Fertility Trends

Yankee-stani

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As I have written in prior posts, Russian demographics continues to improve as it has throughout the Putin era (Russian Demographics in 2019).

Life expectancy is going up very rapidly, constituting a new record of 73.6 yearsas of the first eight months of this year. Deaths from external causes continue to plummet, including homicide rates, which will probably fall below American levels this year for the first time since the late 1980s. Deaths from external causes, and abortion rates, also continue to converge to “normality”.

But the one big exception in this otherwise positive picture is fertility rates, which have plummeted from a post-Soviet high of 1.78 children per woman in 2015 to 1.58 in 2018, and are set to drop below 1.50 this year.

[img class="aligncenter wp-image-452614 size-full" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019.jpg" alt="" width="1255" height="705" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019.jpg 1255w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019-150x84.jpg 150w, has chronicled on Twitter. Its causes are unclear. Even so, the fertility retreat in the post-Soviet world has been particularly abrupt, having already annulled about half the recovery relative to the post-Soviet nadir in Russia and Belarus (and almost completely so in the Ukraine).

If this continues, then Russia’s future population trends will hew to my (modified) “Low” prediction from 2008, which sees a stagnation/slight decline in Russia’s population through to 2050.

That said, I will continue to maintain that this is a temporary reversal, at least in Russia’s case, on the basis of two pieces of evidence.

1. Russia’s fertility preferences remain relatively high compared to other European countries.

A year ago, I wrote a history of Russian fertility preferences. I have now become aware that the Levada Center has also been carrying out polls on this topic, and the latest data have desired Russian fertility creeping up to late Soviet era highs (2.63 children per woman as of October 2019). This is in sync with a 2018 poll from VCIOM that suggested Russians desired 2.57 children per woman, up from 2.32 children in 2014 according to data from the same polling outfit.

Here is the updated dataset of all the polls on Russian fertility preferences that I have gathered to date (“W” refers to women only).

n M/W Source Year Real TFR Expected TFR Ideal TFR
W V.A. Belova 1969 1.99 2.21 2.69
– WVS 1992 1.55 2.72
1980 – Levada 1995 1.34 1.28 2.12
2105 – Levada 1996 1.27 1.63 2.11
2022 – Levada 1997 1.22 1.59 2.07
– WVS 1997 1.22 2.33
2107 – Levada 1998 1.23 1.54 2.19
2085 – Levada 1999 1.16 1.36 2.21
2107 – Levada 2000 1.20 1.55 2.17
1600 – Levada 2001 1.22 1.52 2.43
1600 – Levada 2003 1.32 1.57 2.19
1600 – Levada 2005 1.29 1.83 2.46
700 W Rosstat 2005 1.29 1.73 2.28
700 – Rosstat 2005 1.29 1.82 2.41
1000 W Rosstat 2009 1.54 1.72 2.28
1000 – Rosstat 2009 1.54 1.81 2.31
5,000 W Rosstat 2012 1.69 1.92 2.28
5,000 – Rosstat 2012 1.69 1.92 2.29
– VCIOM 2014 1.75 2.32
W Rosstat 2017 1.62 1.88 2.15
Rosstat 2017 1.62 1.88 2.16
VCIOM 2018 1.58 2.57
1600 – Levada 2019 1.50 1.82 2.63
And here is that table in graphical format:

[img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-452619" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019.png" alt="" width="954" height="993" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019.png 954w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019-144x150.png 144w, not dissimilar to most European countries). After having remained at ~2.7 children per woman during the late Soviet era, when the fertility rate was near replacement level rates, it collapsed to ~2.1 children per woman by the late 1990s. However, it subsequently crept back up to ~2.4 children per woman, and now seems to be approaching late Soviet era rates of 2.6 children again. This suggests that a recovery to at least 1.8 children per woman can be reasonably expected.

This is very good relative to most other Western countries. The only major West European countries with similar rates, at least in the early 2000s, were Ireland (2.61) and France (2.54), which enjoyed TFRs of ~1.9 children per woman during that same period. This also describes the US, which had a TFR of ~2.0 children per woman back around 1990 when it last had an ideal fertility rate of ~2.6 children per woman (as of 2012, this was down to 2.37 children).

2. The average birth sequence statistics suggest that there is currently a strong trend towards birth postponement.

Here’s a short explanation of the concept:

An even more accurate measure of long-term fertility is the average birth sequence (средняя очередность рождения, henceforth ABS), which gives for any one year the mean order of all newborn children (for instance, if women in a previously entirely childless country all decided to give birth in a given year for some reason, the TFR would leap up to a very high level but the ABS would equal exactly one). Looking at these different fertility patterns, it emerges that in the 1980’s, Soviet fertility was not as high as implied by the TFR – not was the 1990’s collapse as apocalyptic as some would have it. Or in other words, many gave birth in the 1980’s because of the social benefits of perestroika and many postponed it in the 1990’s because of the economic crises. The effect on deeper generational fertility patterns was much more modest – a drop of just 0.2 children.

[img class="size-medium wp-image-452627 alignright" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/europe-childlessness-rates-247x300.png" alt="" width="247" height="300" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/europe-childlessness-rates-247x300.png 247w, stranger233) displays Russia’s ABS from 1980-2018.

[img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-452628" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018.jpg" alt="" width="990" height="871" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018.jpg 990w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018-150x132.jpg 150w, 25.5 years, versus 31 years in Italy and Switzerland, which have some of the oldest ages at first childbirth. It is probably not ideal for it to go higher, since it limits ultimate possible fertility, and pregnancy becomes more difficult and dangerous after 35 years. But it is a worldwide trend and likely inevitable.

[img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-452630" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-300x259.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="259" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-300x259.jpg 300w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-150x129.jpg 150w, latest Levada poll suggests there’s no sociological shift away from that pattern; only 1% of women say childfree is ideal, while only 8% say they don’t expect to have any children. This figure is perfectly in line with longstanding trends.

Consequently, I assess that Russia’s long-term TFR is likely to remain at no less than 1.75 children, which coupled with positive life expectancy and immigration (300,000 yearly) trends should see Russia’s population – adjusting for any territorial changes – eking out an absolute increase between 2010 and 2050.
As I have written in prior posts, Russian demographics continues to improve as it has throughout the Putin era (Russian Demographics in 2019).

Life expectancy is going up very rapidly, constituting a new record of 73.6 yearsas of the first eight months of this year. Deaths from external causes continue to plummet, including homicide rates, which will probably fall below American levels this year for the first time since the late 1980s. Deaths from external causes, and abortion rates, also continue to converge to “normality”.

But the one big exception in this otherwise positive picture is fertility rates, which have plummeted from a post-Soviet high of 1.78 children per woman in 2015 to 1.58 in 2018, and are set to drop below 1.50 this year.

[img class="aligncenter wp-image-452614 size-full" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019.jpg" alt="" width="1255" height="705" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019.jpg 1255w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/world-fertility-2010-2015-2019-150x84.jpg 150w, has chronicled on Twitter. Its causes are unclear. Even so, the fertility retreat in the post-Soviet world has been particularly abrupt, having already annulled about half the recovery relative to the post-Soviet nadir in Russia and Belarus (and almost completely so in the Ukraine).

If this continues, then Russia’s future population trends will hew to my (modified) “Low” prediction from 2008, which sees a stagnation/slight decline in Russia’s population through to 2050.

That said, I will continue to maintain that this is a temporary reversal, at least in Russia’s case, on the basis of two pieces of evidence.

1. Russia’s fertility preferences remain relatively high compared to other European countries.

A year ago, I wrote a history of Russian fertility preferences. I have now become aware that the Levada Center has also been carrying out polls on this topic, and the latest data have desired Russian fertility creeping up to late Soviet era highs (2.63 children per woman as of October 2019). This is in sync with a 2018 poll from VCIOM that suggested Russians desired 2.57 children per woman, up from 2.32 children in 2014 according to data from the same polling outfit.

Here is the updated dataset of all the polls on Russian fertility preferences that I have gathered to date (“W” refers to women only).

n M/W Source Year Real TFR Expected TFR Ideal TFR
W V.A. Belova 1969 1.99 2.21 2.69
– WVS 1992 1.55 2.72
1980 – Levada 1995 1.34 1.28 2.12
2105 – Levada 1996 1.27 1.63 2.11
2022 – Levada 1997 1.22 1.59 2.07
– WVS 1997 1.22 2.33
2107 – Levada 1998 1.23 1.54 2.19
2085 – Levada 1999 1.16 1.36 2.21
2107 – Levada 2000 1.20 1.55 2.17
1600 – Levada 2001 1.22 1.52 2.43
1600 – Levada 2003 1.32 1.57 2.19
1600 – Levada 2005 1.29 1.83 2.46
700 W Rosstat 2005 1.29 1.73 2.28
700 – Rosstat 2005 1.29 1.82 2.41
1000 W Rosstat 2009 1.54 1.72 2.28
1000 – Rosstat 2009 1.54 1.81 2.31
5,000 W Rosstat 2012 1.69 1.92 2.28
5,000 – Rosstat 2012 1.69 1.92 2.29
– VCIOM 2014 1.75 2.32
W Rosstat 2017 1.62 1.88 2.15
Rosstat 2017 1.62 1.88 2.16
VCIOM 2018 1.58 2.57
1600 – Levada 2019 1.50 1.82 2.63
And here is that table in graphical format:

[img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-452619" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019.png" alt="" width="954" height="993" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019.png 954w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-fertility-expected-ideal-1969-2019-144x150.png 144w, not dissimilar to most European countries). After having remained at ~2.7 children per woman during the late Soviet era, when the fertility rate was near replacement level rates, it collapsed to ~2.1 children per woman by the late 1990s. However, it subsequently crept back up to ~2.4 children per woman, and now seems to be approaching late Soviet era rates of 2.6 children again. This suggests that a recovery to at least 1.8 children per woman can be reasonably expected.

This is very good relative to most other Western countries. The only major West European countries with similar rates, at least in the early 2000s, were Ireland (2.61) and France (2.54), which enjoyed TFRs of ~1.9 children per woman during that same period. This also describes the US, which had a TFR of ~2.0 children per woman back around 1990 when it last had an ideal fertility rate of ~2.6 children per woman (as of 2012, this was down to 2.37 children).

2. The average birth sequence statistics suggest that there is currently a strong trend towards birth postponement.

Here’s a short explanation of the concept:

An even more accurate measure of long-term fertility is the average birth sequence (средняя очередность рождения, henceforth ABS), which gives for any one year the mean order of all newborn children (for instance, if women in a previously entirely childless country all decided to give birth in a given year for some reason, the TFR would leap up to a very high level but the ABS would equal exactly one). Looking at these different fertility patterns, it emerges that in the 1980’s, Soviet fertility was not as high as implied by the TFR – not was the 1990’s collapse as apocalyptic as some would have it. Or in other words, many gave birth in the 1980’s because of the social benefits of perestroika and many postponed it in the 1990’s because of the economic crises. The effect on deeper generational fertility patterns was much more modest – a drop of just 0.2 children.

[img class="size-medium wp-image-452627 alignright" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/europe-childlessness-rates-247x300.png" alt="" width="247" height="300" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/europe-childlessness-rates-247x300.png 247w, stranger233) displays Russia’s ABS from 1980-2018.

[img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-452628" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018.jpg" alt="" width="990" height="871" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018.jpg 990w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-1980-2018-150x132.jpg 150w, 25.5 years, versus 31 years in Italy and Switzerland, which have some of the oldest ages at first childbirth. It is probably not ideal for it to go higher, since it limits ultimate possible fertility, and pregnancy becomes more difficult and dangerous after 35 years. But it is a worldwide trend and likely inevitable.

[img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-452630" src="https://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-300x259.jpg" alt="" width="300" height="259" srcset="http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-300x259.jpg 300w, http://www.unz.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/russia-abs-soviet-history-150x129.jpg 150w, latest Levada poll suggests there’s no sociological shift away from that pattern; only 1% of women say childfree is ideal, while only 8% say they don’t expect to have any children. This figure is perfectly in line with longstanding trends.

Consequently, I assess that Russia’s long-term TFR is likely to remain at no less than 1.75 children, which coupled with positive life expectancy and immigration (300,000 yearly) trends should see Russia’s population – adjusting for any territorial changes – eking out an absolute increase between 2010 and 2050.
http://www.unz.com/akarlin/russia-fertility-trends/
 

Elvin

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How much of this growth can be attributed to the Muslim population in Russia who typically have many more kids than white christian Russians?
 

vostok

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How much of this growth can be attributed to the Muslim population in Russia who typically have many more kids than white christian Russians?
In Russia only North-Caucasus muslims has good growth rate - Chechnya, Dagestan. All other muslims in European Russia and Siberia have the same negative growth rate as Russians.
 

Yankee-stani

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How much of this growth can be attributed to the Muslim population in Russia who typically have many more kids than white christian Russians?
Tatars and Bashkirs are the bulk of the Russian Muslim population they are pretty secular and been Russified the folks having the most folks are the Chechens and Caucausians but they make less than 1 percent of the Russian population
 

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