Policy Memos

Russia's Population Crisis: The Migration Dimension

Policy Memo:


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Since the Soviet collapse, Russia has experienced a number of unfavorable demographic developments:

• Falling fertility. The crude birth rate (births per 1000 population) declined from 12.1 in 1991 to 8.6 in 1997. Although some of the decline can be attributed to the changing age structure of the population, falling age-specific birth rates suggest that Russia's post-Soviet economic and social difficulties are the primary causes.

• Increasing mortality. The overall death rate grew steadily from 1991 until peaking in 1994, then gradually abating. This reflects the well-publicized increase in male (and, less markedly, female) mortality during the first half of the 1990s. The male death rate jumped from 11.6 per thousand in 1990 to 17.8 per thousand in 1994, then declined somewhat to 15.0 per thousand in 1997. The mortality increase has been attributed to a host of factors associated with the political and economic changes following the Soviet collapse: economic and social distress, deterioration of the health care system, widespread alcoholism, and growing homicide and industrial accident rates.

• Negative natural increase. The combination of the two preceding developments has produced annual natural decreases in Russia's population. Positive inmigration rates have offset the natural population decline somewhat, but not enough to prevent Russia from becoming one of the few countries with a shrinking population. From 1992 to 1998, Russia's population declined by approximately 1.4 million. [...]

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About the author

Professor of Sociology
University of Wisconsin-Madison