'Dying Russia' Soldiers On With the Exact Same Birth Rate as the West

Russia birth rates are on par with those in Germany and the US so how exactly is Russia dying out and these countries aren't?

Preliminary data for 2018 is in.

Births, deaths, and natural increase in Russia, 1946-2018.

Summary

There were about 1,599,316 (10.9/1,000) births in 2018, a decline of 5.4% relative to the 1,689,884 (11.5/1,000) births in 2017. There were about 1,817,710 (12.4/1,000) deaths in 2018, a decline of 0.4% relative to the 1,824,340 (12.4/1,000) deaths in 2017.

Consequently, the rate of natural increase declined from -134,456 (-0.9/1,000) in 2017, to -218,394 in 2018.

Unlike the previous year, the decline in birth rates was relatively even across Russian and non-Russian regions in 2018 (e.g. Dagestan declined by 5.2%, which is similar to the Russian average).

The population was estimated at 146,793,744 as of Jan 1, 2019, down from 146,880,432 exactly one year ago. This implies about 131,706 in long-term net immigration, down from 172,551 last year.

If accurate, this would mark the first time since 2007 that the population of Russia has declined in absolute terms*.

***

Fertility

Russia experienced a sustained recovery from the fertility collapse of the 1990s starting from the mid-2000s, during which TFR rose from around 1.3 children per woman to a post-Soviet record of 1.78 children per woman by 2015. However, Russian fertility fell off a cliff in the second half of 2016.

Monthly births in Russia, 2006-2018, with yearly moving average.
Monthly births in Russia (percent change year-on-year), 2007-2018 , with yearly moving average.

In my last Russia demographic update a year ago, I noted that there were tentative signs that it may have bottomed out in recent months. This turned out not to be, though the rate of decrease did slow down.


Russia Total Fertility Rate (children per woman), 1946-2018.

Adjusting for the age structure of the population – the number of Russian women in their childbearing years is falling faster than the number of absolute numbers – I calculate Russian TFR was ~1.57 children per woman in 2018, down from 1.62 in 2017. (In the previous year, I calculated it would be 1.61 children per woman, while it turned out to be 1.62 children per woman in reality).

I have previously established that ethnic Russians have approximately 0.08 fewer children than the average for the Russian Federation. This would imply that ethnic Russian TFR is now at around 1.5 children per women.

While there’s no way to put a positive spin on these developments, it’s worth bearing in mind that pretty much the entire industrialized world has been in a minor baby glut for the past couple of years (as documented by Twitter demographer @Cicerone1973). Consequently, Russia has largely preserved the relative position to other countries it acquired around 2014-15, at the height of its baby boom. Its numbers are currently very similar to those forecasted for Germany (1.55) and Visegrad (1.47 in Poland; 1.50 in Hungary; 1.53 in Slovakia; 1.67 in Czechia). Note that native German and Visegrad TFRs will also be modestly lower on account of immigrants and Gypsies, respectively.

Broadly speaking, Russia continues to do better than the Med, but worse than France, the UK, Ireland, and Scandinavia. Overall EU fertility in 2016 was 1.60 children per woman, so bearing in mind the decline since then, it should now be in the low 1.50s (with natives at perhaps 1.45 children per woman). American TFR has declined from 1.84 children per woman in 2015 to perhaps 1.74 children per woman in 2018 (translating to a White American fertility rate of ~1.64 children per woman).

I have often made the point that there there seems to be a Great Homogenization, as American millennials adopt European mores while Europeans soak up American culture from Game of Thrones to #MeToo. Despite geopolitical tension, Russia is very much involved in this process as well. It is interesting to see this happening with respect to demographics as well. As we can see, natives/whites in the EU (~1.45), Russia (~1.50), and the US (~1.64) all now have rather similar fertility rates.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a comprehensive article on Russia’s fertility preferences.

While I recommend you check it out and read it in its entirety, one prediction I am willing to make on the basis of that data is that the retreat in Russian TFR observed in 2016-18 will halt, modestly recover, and stabilize at around 1.7 children per woman by the early 2020s.

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