Russia’s Fertility Falls Off a Cliff

Here is a graph of monthly births in Russia since 2006 through to March 2017:


It is pointless to make sweeping conclusions based on demographic data from the past one or two months.

That said, the three month moving average has been down relative to the same period in the previous year since the middle of 2016, and as of this year, has widened to 10%, an unprecedented figure in the past decade.


Now to be sure, birth rates should – all else equal – be falling, because the diminished generation of the 1990s is now moving into its peak childbearing years. It shouldn’t be falling by 10% in any one year, however. If this new trend continues, Russia’s TFR for 2017 should fall to about 1.65 children per woman from the 1.76 in 2016.

OTOH mortality continued improving, falling by 1% in the first three months of 2017 relative to same period last year, which translates into a correspondingly greater improvement in life expectancy because of Russia’s ageing population (i.e. for the same reason that Russia’s fertility rate would increase if the number of births was to stay the same).

So I don’t want to imply all is doom and gloom after having covered Russia’s demographic turnaround for almost a decade.

However, it does perhaps warrant a reassessment of the weight we attach to different demographic projections.

For instance, the “Medium” scenario in my Russian demographic model – also the one which I long thought likeliest – involves the assumption that the TFR would converge to about 1.75 (where it has generally been since 2012), with steady convergence in life expectancy to developed world levels, and annual (official) immigrant inflows of 300,000. In this scenario, Russia’s population would actually increase to about 150 million in 2025 and 158 million by 2050 (that’s including Crimea, aka +2 million).

However, if the recent fertility decline is not a one-year blip, and were to instead to continue falling to about 1.50, then Russia’s population would stagnate (this is from before Crimea):

Low (TFR=1.5 from 2010)Population growth starts from 2011, going from 142mn to 143mn by 2023. Then it falls slowly to 138mn by 2050. The birth rate peaks at 12.5 in 2013, falls sharply to 7.8 by 2032, and then remains in the 8-9 range. The death rate troughs at 11.4 in 2032, then rises to 12.9 by 2050. Positive natural increase is never attained.

Not really the demographic apocalypse long promised by the Western media either, but a disappointing outcome nonetheless.

It’s also possible that this will further encourage the kremlins to intensify immigration from Central Asia.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Not good news. I was hoping for at least one white country with at least some semblance of a demographic turnaround…

  2. Anonymous says

    The options for the Russian government to respond with incentives are limited because of so much spending on the military. Spending 5.3% (Stockholm) of the economy on the military leaves room for little else in the budget.

    I had a long post in Smoothiex12’s thread about all the disadvantages of so much military spending but it appears he didn’t allow it to go through.

  3. The US spent close to 10% of its GDP on the military in the 1950s and its TFR reached its post-fertility transition maximum back then.

    Israel has a TFR of about 3 children and likewise spends close to 10% of GDP on the military.

    So this can’t have much to do with anything. In any case Russia has generous pro-natality subsidies equivalent to more than $10,000 per child since the mid-2000s.

  4. Anonymous says

    Does Russia have a fair wind now and in the foreseeable future of 1950s America which had economic growth and cheap housing in nice places? It might have highly religious people having big families like in Israel (but that of course is a problem).

    As Russia must continue to spend a lot on the military into the 2020w, it will have budget deficits which pile up putting pressure on other forms of spending like pro-natality subsidies, education, and diversification of the economy.

  5. Erik Sieven says

    immigration is the problem, not low fertility. Even with a TFR of 3,0 the West would be doomed by accepting immigration from countries with a TFR with 6,0

  6. bob sykes says

    This is a world-wide phenomenon everywhere except Africa. The world population will peak out in 2030 or so at about 8 to 8.5 billion people, and then begin a long, slow decline. The consequences or world depopulation are hard to imagine. There will likely be a decline in world GDP, also, as demand falls. Falling populations and falling GDP are not a problem, however, as long as per caput GDP stays the same or rises.

  7. German_reader says

    Depressing, but thanks for the info.

  8. Spending 5.3% (Stockholm) of the economy on the military leaves room for little else in the budget.

    Spending for incentives could as easily come out of the other 94.7% of the budget – money is money. Global average is 2.2% according to the same SIPRI source, so Russia’s spending over the average is only 3.1%.

    But Russia of course is not an average country – it is not a meekly compliant part of the US international order and it faces a real threat of attacks on its interests and allies by a proven military aggressor state, the US, with massively higher military spending and capabilities and a clear policy of trying to destroy Russia as a rival or even as an independent power centre. Russia’s excess military spending is clearly not meaningfully discretionary, as the US’s is (being spent in order to maintain global dominance rather than national defence), or as that of the European satellite states of the US is (being subordinate protectorates of the US anyway).

    Spending on the military is the price of true national sovereignty.

  9. “The US spent close to 10% of its GDP on the military in the 1950s and its TFR reached its post-fertility transition maximum back then.”

    Apples and oranges.

    Back then the factories that ran because of this spending employed tons of ubiquitous middle class Americans. Scads of companies back then manufacturing lots of stuff, all with tons of engineers.

    Now? More than an order of magnitude difference in the number of companies involved in making defense products. And I’d wager that the ones that are left employ fewer engineers per million of defense spending in whatever year dollars you want, than the Lockheed of the 50’s.

    Not to mention the number of jobs lost on assembly lines that would have employed lots of people in the 50’s and only a handful today.

    Christ they used to order jet fighters by the thousand. Now they buy like 100 spread out over a decade.

    Hmmm I need to see an absolute dollars spent on defense some day. I know that as a fraction of GDP it’s down, but I wonder if in absolute 1955 dollars or something we don’t spend more than ever?

  10. Anonymous says

    Well Russia is becoming every year more urbanized, it is impossible to keep high fertlity if most of the population lives in very dense cities – as it is happening. Same thing in Japan, South-Korea etc.. even in Iran`s capital city Teheran fertility rate is like 0,90/woman.

    Russians are obviously too dumb to realize this and they pretty much just making cities even more dense and ignoring small villages and rural areas, so population have to move to cities for a work. I am 99% sure that fertility rate of Russia will keep getting lower every year.

    “The researchers found that people throughout the world tend to have fewer kids when population densities are high, a pattern that repeated itself over the course of forty years. Density dependence was apparent even in the number of children people wanted,

    Density could be making food scarcer, or stress could be reducing fertility biochemically. Pollution may also be to blame. The psychological effects of crowding might be lowering libidos. Economics could be another driver.

  11. A rather sharp decrease in the number of births. Dynamics of mortality in this case is the same as in previous years.
    None of the factors separately (demographic, economic, social) could not give such a result. Since last year greatly decreased the number of marriages (-15%), and this year on the contrary there is a large increase (+10%), apparently it was one of the strongest factors that influenced on the decrease in the number of births. Many couples delayed marriage (for various reasons – such as leap year, problems in the economy) and now of course no children are born, which would have been conceived after the wedding .

    On the other hand, recent years have seen a speeding up of the second birth, to receive maternity capital, which could get up to 31 December 2016. The programme is being extended, but many women gave birth to additional children much in advance of the final date 2-3 years ago. And now they are “not enough” in the number of mothers, that is as if they have given birth faster than they should have.

    It has generally been expected, but nobody expected such a strong decline. If at least part of these thoughts is correct, it still the 2nd half of 2017 to identify. Need to wait 9 months at least

    Note that less than a quarter of all births in Russia are outside of marriages.

  12. Greasy William says

    This is good for Russia and the planet. We need fewer people, not more. We just need to get non whites to match the low fertility levels of whites and northeast Asians.

  13. The birthrate is extremely high in Karachi or Lagos, even in Baghdad or Cairo. Large cities usually have a lower birthrate than contemporary rural areas in the same country, but this tendency, not universal anyway, can be completely swamped by other factors when we look at other times and places.

  14. Russia should be spending a lot more than 5.3% of GNP on its military. Perhaps it is. Same applies to China.

  15. Thanks, this provides important context. Let’s hope it is indeed a large blip.

  16. Hector_St_Clare says

    Russia has still “turned around” relative to the 1990s (when its TFR was like 1.3) and is still substantially higher than most of eastern Europe.

    Eastern Germany has come back from a TFR of 0.8 in the mid-1990s and its fertility is now higher than western Germany, though it’s still fairly low.

  17. Hector_St_Clare says

    +1000, but you should really say “tropical Africans, South Asians, and Middle Easterners.” Latin America and the Caribbean are well on their way to completing the demographic transition, and Southeast Asia is doing so as well.

    For that matter, the southern and eastern tier of India has reached sub-replacement fertility, and the southern tier of Africa is well on its way as well.

  18. Hector_St_Clare says


    Do you have a good explanation for the 25-year long rise in US fertility (from a little over 2 in the early 1930s to 3.8 in 1957)? I’m not sure I would say that was after the fertility transition (it was pre-Pill), but in any case, why did the trends toward lower fertility suddenly reverse for 25 years?

  19. It is universal fact, sure there are few exceptions like ulta-orthodox jews in New York etc.. and for example in USA there are many low-density big cities where fertility rate is probably quite high like Houston Texas. But in Russia most cities are much more dense, so psychological effecst are much stronger and so is fertility rate lower.

    Even rats stop having children in too dense places, google John.B.Calhon and his rat-studies.

  20. Now to be sure, birth rates should – all else equal – be falling, because the diminished generation of the 1990s is now moving into its peak childbearing years. It shouldn’t be falling by 10% in any one year, however.

    Presumably the 2-year recession is also a factor. Perceptions of the economy typically lag the reality by at least several months, and real GDP growth is expected to resume in the first half of this year. So with the additional 9-month delay, we probably won’t see any positive impact on fertility from the improving economy until 2018.

  21. Russia has still “turned around” relative to the 1990s (when its TFR was like 1.3)

    Even worse than that: According to Rosstat, at the low point in 1999, TFR was 1.16.

  22. Of course it was after “the” fertility transition (what does the presence or absence of one minority technique of birth prevention matter?), but you are right that the explanations generally given, while they plausibly account for some increase, don’t explain its magnitude.

  23. There are actually several countries with a turnaround since the late 2000s. A sustained rise in fertility can be seen in Eastern Europe and the German speaking countries. Fertility declined after the crisis in the whole Anglosphere, Scandinavia, Northwestern Europe and Southern Europe.

  24. Hector_St_Clare says

    I was using the pill to refer more broadly to hormonal contraception in general (which would include things like the patch, the hormonal IUD, etc.). You’re correct I should have been more precise. Those were all developed / commercialized after 1960, IIRC.

    Techniques matter because hormonal contraceptives are much, much, much more effective than older methods like the condom. As well as more ‘covert’, so that women in patriarchal societies can use them without having to get their partner’s consent. For both these reasons they end up being a much better method of birth control than barrier methods. A world with no hormonal methods of contraception would not have had the monumental drop in fertility that our wolrd has experienced since the 1960s.

  25. Theory may say this, but the historical record disagrees.

  26. True, there are several examples of very low fertility before the 1960s. You just need to go back to the 1920s and 30s to see cities such as Oslo, Stockholm, Berlin, Geneva or San Francisco that had fertility rates of close to 1.0 children per woman or even below that. Vienna even went as low as 0.7 children per woman in the early 1930s without modern contraceptives or a one-child-policy.

  27. I don’t think Russia is spending 5.3% of the GDP on defence, certainly not anymore. Or maybe it is, if you include “hidden spending”, but that is another topic.

    They reduced the spending to something like 3%-3.5% of the GDP from 2017 onwards. Which is still reasonably high, and roughly the same as in 2013, IIRC. That enables Russia to continue the military modernization. The spending was just abnormally high during 2014-16, AS PLANNED.

    And indeed, I’m not sure that make’s a huge difference either way… whether Russia spends 3, 4 or 5%. It’s still much less than the US during the Cold War.

  28. I read optimistic articles last year how the refugees were bringing a baby boom to both Germany and Sweden. But unlike those journalists, I didn’t find it all that encouraging…

    It’s obvious that the more cucked Western European nations will be minority white by the end of the century. I’m not quite into those baby booms.

  29. German_reader says

    If you’re referring to Germany, I don’t think that’s true, the birthrate among ethnic Germans is still one of the lowest in the world. Media reports to the contrary imo are just intended to create unjustified complacency.

  30. The increase in births, although from a low base, is too much to be just explained by (mostly male, hence not influencing the TFR) refugees. Because of changing family policies to a more Scandinavian model of double-earnership and childcare for small children, higher educated Germans are also having more children again.

    The birth rate in Sweden is still declining, which means that the rate for ethnic Swedes is declining even faster.

  31. 1.5 million refugees came. Let’s assume just 200,000 of those are women. They are all married and of childbearing age. Germany has perhaps 20 million people of childbearing age, or 10 million women, so the refugees will have been at least 2% of such women, and if you assume that they have exactly the same fertility as Germans, that will translate into a 2% share in childbirth.

    But I bet you most of those women didn’t use contraception. Why would they? Even in the absence of birthright citizenship, probably it’s more difficult to deport a family with a child born in Germany. Also, welfare payments will only get more generous. A pregnant Syrian woman was praising conditions in Germany, how easier it was to have a family than in Syria.

    I think it’s not unlikely that those 200,000 women have given birth to 100,000 babies since arrival, that is, over the past one and a half years. How many children are born in Germany a year?

    You might also ask yourself why the media is putting out stories on how the refugees are causing this baby boom.

    Most people don’t think much about demography.

  32. Couldn’t this sudden precipitous drop just be an indication of the general unreliability of Russian demographic statistics instead – i.e., that collection, collation and reporting of birth and death data are done in a sloppy and unreliable way, either at the national or regional level? In the absence of some totally new and massive external or internal crisis or disaster starting to act or occurring suddenly nine months prior, which we know didn’t happen to Russia in this period, a huge drop of this magnitude in nationwide births out of the blue within the space of a few months doesn’t seem normal – unless the data from either the preceding or the newer period, or both, are somewhat shaky and/or fudged.

  33. Erik Sieven says

    China really has a ridiculous low military budget. They should at least converge to US standards. Fewer jobs in retail, more jobs in the army would be good for everyone.

  34. Erik Sieven says

    what is the medium term future of Russia? My guess is that after Putin someone much more boring will follow, and also the whole country Russia will become more boring. It will become more similar to other European countries, GDP/capita will converge to European average. Fertility will just settle somewhere between Poland and Ireland. But boring is not bad, in the end individual life will be easier than it is today.

  35. German_reader says

    I don’t think there are any numbers yet how many children have been born to “refugee” mothers in Germany since 2015; at least I can’t recall having seen any.
    The real trouble will probably begin anyway once family reunification gets really under way; according to media reports several hundred thousand Syrians have a “right” to that. The establishment tries to obfuscate matters and somewhat restrict the process until after the elections in September, but it’s clear that the flood gates for family reunification will be opened in 2018.

  36. China really has a ridiculous low military budget.

    What about China’s secret military budget?

  37. European countries do not share a border with Islamic and East Asian countries.
    That alone is enough to prevent boredom.

  38. Daniel Chieh says

    As far as it seems to me, the winning game is to get everyone else to limit their population while not reducing your own. This allows you to win at democracy, where votes is headcount.

  39. Erik Sieven says

    Emotionally most Germans think Syria is just a stone´s throw away, while they think Ukraine is like on another continent. Mentally Europe certainly shares a border with core Islamic countries. But you are of course right, Russia has its extreme territory which will always make some kind of difference.

  40. Hector_St_Clare says

    The median Russian as judged by public opinion surveys is much less aligned with liberal western values than Putin (more economically Left, more ethnocentric, less tolerant of political and ethnic difference), so I think that’s unlikely.

    I don’t think there’s much doubt that whoever comes after Putin will be tougher on immigration and political dissent than he is. Possibly less military adventurism but who knows?

  41. Emotionally most Germans think Syria is just a stone´s throw away, while they think Ukraine is like on another continent. Mentally Europe certainly shares a border with core Islamic countries.

    It is not that surprising.
    Millions of Turks live in Germany, millions of Germans have visited Turkey as tourists in the last decades.
    I had Turkish and Syrian classmates even before the Arab population was boosted by the new migrants in the last years.
    On the other hand, until 1990 the FRG/BRD did not even border Poland.

  42. I don’t think there’s much doubt that whoever comes after Putin will be tougher on immigration and political dissent than he is.

    There should be doubt because his successors will be from same Russian elite.

  43. Some estimate that China’s military is budget is actually 2% of the GDP, not the official 1.3%.

    In any case, just like Russia, China has its own MIC, with lower costs, so the real military spending vs. the US (and really vs. all the other countries too) is much higher in reality. However, the gap isn’t quite as large as Russia’s official dollar budget vs. the real spending, due to ruble’s devaluation.

    So in comparable terms, China’s military budget is atleast something like $250 billion. Russia’s maybe $150 billion, certainly more than $100 billion.

  44. I’m afraid that Putin will be replaced by a Gorby-like reformer who’ll start another period of looting and breakup. Medvedev seems capable of that. One doesn’t even have to be personally evil for this, just weak-willed. It’s where the global current usually flows.

    Putin is much healthier than the average person of his age, so he could conceivably stay for another 20 or 25 years.

    His combination of brains and a (relatively) based, independent outlook is very rare. KGB officers tended to be patriotic, manly and smart. Most smart people are liberal wimps instead.

    If the next guy is an economist by training, lights out. Military or intelligence man – there’s some hope.

  45. @Anatoly Karlin: Honestly, I think that we should wait for more data before coming to conclusions. If this trend will continue, then we can get worried.

    Also, a bit off-topic, but out of curiosity–do you think that it would ever be possible for Russia’s total fertility rate to go above 2.1 children per woman? After all, Russia certainly has a lot of living space and a lot of natural resources as well–thus likely making it possible for it to sustain a much larger population than it currently has.

  46. The fall in births seems to be a reflection of the fall in marriages which occurred in Russia last year, marriages fell by 15% or so in 2016 and considering that 75% of children in Russia are born to married parents, the decline in births is not very surprising.

    The positive news is that the negative trends in the number of marriages seems to have reversed with the number of marriages rising by 2.7% in the first 3 months of 2017, suggesting that births will stabilize in 2018 and the TFR will begin rising again, for 2016 though, considering the sharp decline in marriages for 2016 as a whole, I think births could fall by as much as 10% before recovering somewhat next year.

    The more important indicator in any any case is the TFR, if the TFR stabilizes at 1.75, then births in Russia will reach a nadir of 1.4 million around 2030, a substantial decline of around 25% from today’s levels but sill above the level of the late 1990’s, if TFR should go down to 1.5 however, then births will fall to 1.2 million and Russia’s population will experience significant ageing as well as population decline in the absence of any migration.

    In the long run though, the only way I see Russia maintaining its position as an independent center of power is if it unites all the East Slavic nations, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia together would have nearly 200 million people, a population base large enough to achieve economies of scale in a number of industries. Russia has all the ingredients to be a major center of world power bar one, population size, with a population of 200 million and GDP per capita converging to around 65% of US levels, Russia’s place as a global power would be guaranteed.

    However, with its current population size, even if Russia reaches 70% of US GDP per capita levels, Russia will still be dwarfed by both America and China.

  47. @Annatar: Can’t Russia simply try harder to encourage its people to have more babies? After all, Israel has succeeded in having a total fertility rate way above replacement rate in spite of the fact that it is a developed country (something which allows it to have a population which consistently grows at a fast rate).

  48. anonymous coward says

    This is obviously a glitch in data collection, not any sort of natural phenomenon.

  49. Anonymous says

    “money is money”

    That’s like saying it grows on trees and spending so much on the military won’t have harsh consequences for society (e.g. lower fertility due to economic uncertainty) and the economy (annual deficits financed by debt at unfavorable interest rates).

    5.3% of the economy, not the budget. America spends 3.3% of GDP on the military and it is a strain. If you total the DoD/Veteran Affairs/Homeland Security part of the discretionary budget (everything but Social Security and Medicare), the share is 2/3.

    What’s left of the Russian budget after military spending considering how much more of a share of resources they spend than the US?

  50. Anonymous says

    According to Stockholm China spends a little under 2% of GDP on the military. Considering China just has to guard its borders rather than take on a role as world policemen, dividing each part of the world into an “area of responsibility” then 2% of GDP might even be high. If China does not need to do any policing outside of its borders than 1 to 1.5% of GDP should be perfectly adequate.

  51. Annatar says

    Russia since 2006 has had a maternity capital program, in some regions, couples are even offered land if they have 3 children, in the long run however, the only way I see Russia raising its TFR above 2.1 is if the population undergoes a cultural change, Israel’s TFR is a reflection of its more religious Haredim community, if Russia were to change culturally as well as its population continuously told by government TV channels and officials the importance as well as the positive aspects related to having more children, I think Russia’s TFR could exceed 2.1.

    Although it should be noted that the desired number of children in Russia is around 2.4, the gap between that figure, and the planned number of children and eventually the number of children women have is something which most likely can be influenced by monetary incentives. However, for TFR to rise above 2.1, the desired number of children will likely to need to rise to 2.8 or so, likely requiring a change in cultural attitudes.

    Somewhat off-topic, it is interesting to note that Russia has one of the largest gaps between urban and rural fertility of any nation in Europe, the TFR in many rural areas in Russia is more or less the same as Israel, in particular in the 3 eastern federal districts whose rural populations it should be noted are overwhelmingly ethnic Russian, the TFR in 2014 was as follows:

    Siberia FD: 2.94
    Far East FD: 2.88
    Ural FD: 2.76

    Even in the west, in certain regions, rural fertility is extremely high, for example in rural Arkhangelsk Oblast which is 95.6% ethnic Russian, the rural TFR was 4.23 in 2014, comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa.

  52. Erik Sieven says

    on the other side there have also been millions of Russians / Ukrainians in Germany in the last decades. The recognition of the alleged “Schicksalsgemeinschaft” with Turkey and other muslim countries in the Near East, most recently Syria seems have been impacted by some kind of media campaigns.

  53. I’m afraid that Putin will be replaced by a Gorby-like reformer who’ll start another period of looting and breakup.

    I am not sure you understand why Gorby could do what he did.
    The Soviet elite wanted that, the Russian elite does not.
    Unlike the Soviet elite, the Russian elite is invested in the current system and wants stability.

    Putin is much healthier than the average person of his age, so he could conceivably stay for another 20 or 25 years.

    Hell no.

  54. on the other side there have also been millions of Russians / Ukrainians in Germany in the last decades.

    Not Ukrainians, Russians and most of them are not even from southern Russia.
    Also, they are much less influential in the German society than the Turks.

  55. In the next half-century – probably not.

    Russia’s desired fertility is about 2.5, similar to the Anglo-Saxon world. However, real fertility usually lags desired fertility by at least 0.5 children, depending on economic circumstances and other factors. The US and the UK sometimes just broke the 2.0 barrier, but only temporarily, when economic circumstances were good. For instance, in Mediterranean Europe, which is more economically depressed, that gap is more like 0.8% children (desired TFR = ~2.1; real TFR = ~1.3). Either Russia’s economy would have to do really and consistently well for that to happen, or fertility preferences should go upwards.

    In the very long run, i.e. centuries, assuming no transformational or civilization catastrophic events, it will go above 2, and then 3 and 4, because fertility preferences correlate to real fertility, and are a personality trait, and hence to some extent heritable.

  56. The Big Red Scary says

    As I see it, the primary problem with (many but not all) highly religious people in Israel is that they impose a high cost on society relative to their contribution. Namely, they not only promote the continuation but even the intensification of the occupation of the West Bank, which necessitates the maintenance and extension of the Israeli police state. At the same time, they are exempt from the three year military service. So they create the problem while at the same time refusing to contribute to the “solution”.

    Highly religious Christians in Russia, on the other hand, do make a lot of babies, as far as I can tell don’t cause much trouble within Russia proper or in neighbouring territories, and seem to have no problems participating in the year-and-a-half military service (probably a necessity given the history and geography of Russia). In fact, they are probably less likely than the average person to try to buy themselves out of it.

    (Someone might possibly object that highly religious Russians are among those causing trouble in Donbass, but in my experience the members of militias are not at all representative of religious Russians, and as Karlin has testily pointed out, the Russian Orthodox Church refuses to bless the participation in such militias. No truly religious Orthodox person will do anything without the blessing of his confessor.)

  57. Anonymous says

    Wasn’t clear in my comment. By highly religious I meant Muslims.

  58. I wonder if the rural/urban gap in these regions actually reflect less Communist influence over the culture. The rural regions you describe all seem to be in areas such as the far North and far East that seem to have been under Communists’ gaze to a lesser extent than was Russia’s central regions. I recall reading that they found some Old Believer village in Siberia that the Communists didn’t get to until the 1960s – it hadn’t heard of the Revolution. It may be that the Soviet grip on these areas as a whole was lighter and the Communists’ impact on cultural norms less pervasive (even though currently these areas, backward and provincial as they are, may vote for the Communists a little more than do other areas).

    Within Ukraine, fertility rate shows a drop at the World War II border. Of particular interest is Rivne oblast vs. Zhytomir oblast. Both of these oblasts, which border each other, were part of the same Guberniya prior to the Revolution, both were rural and Orthodox and had about the same ethnic mix, but afterward Rivne became part of Poland and Zhytomir part of the USSR. Rivne permanently joined the USSR after World War II. In 2013 Rivne’s TFR was 2.0, while Zhytomir’s was 1.68. In terms of birth rate these numbers in 2014 were 14.8 and 12.0, respectively. Zhytomir city only has about 20,000 more people than does Rivne city.

  59. In the long run though, the only way I see Russia maintaining its position as an independent center of power is if it unites all the East Slavic nations, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia together would have nearly 200 million people,

    Not possible if not voluntary, and recent events have soured most Ukrainians on Russia for a generation at least.

    Ukraine would likely have drifted westward no matter what, so seizing Crimea and keeping the war brewing might make sense because it at least provided a consolation prize (added a friendly population, warm-water part, there are gas deposits, etc.) and makes sure rival-Ukraine is poorer and less stable. On the other hand, if there was any small chance of some sort of voluntary union Russia’s policies have killed it. A reason for these actions was short to medium term political gain for Putin and his forces, boosting their popularity among the people and distracting them from their anger at the Russian state, redirecting the focus of nationalism away from the Russian government and at Ukraine.

  60. Cicerone says

    Unfortunately there is no data for 2016 yet, but if one looks at what drove the boomlet until 2015, it was mostly births to Eastern European migrants who came and still come in droves since the opening up of the free movement area to the east.

    The 200,000 isn’t far off the mark though, as from the 750,000 claims for asylum in 2016, 125,000 were done by women of reproductive age. When we consider that some hundreds of thoudsands of the 1.5 million who came with the recent wave since 2014 already left again (mostly balkans fake refugees, not mideastern rapefugees), 200,000 women look reasonable.

    In Germany there are currently 15 million women of reproductive age, who give birth to around 740,000 babies in 2015, or in other words, 50 births per 1000 women, corresponding to a TFR of 1.5. If we assume that the refugees have a TFR of 3.0 (similar to the level in Syria, but lower than in Iraq and Afghanistan), they will bear 100 births per 1000 women, or in other words, they will have 20,000 children in a typical year, so much less than your estimate of 100,000.

    The statistics so far suggest less than that. Births to women of Asian citizenship (including the whole continent from Israel to Indonesia), rose from 20,000 to 25,000 between 2012 and 2015. More interesting of course will be 2016, but, as I said, there is no data yet.

  61. Cicerone says

    Maybe the Russian baby bust of 2017 is not really “Russian”, but rather a phenomenon in the former Soviet Union in general. The Baltic states have reported similar drops for 2017 so far. Here are my estimates for their TFR of 2017 (2016 in brackets, if the sitiation stays during this year)

    Estonia 1.50 (1.59)
    Latvia 1.65 (1.72)
    Lithuania 1.64 (1.69)
    Ukraine 1.44 (1.48)

    Anyone has data on Belarus?

    However, of all developed countries which have reported some birth numbers for 2017, only Poland can expect to have a strong rise, and Hungary+ Japan can expect to stay where they were in 2016. Declines are also seen in the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Israel, South Korea and Taiwan.

  62. In a lot of these cases the low rates can in part be explained by large numbers of young people being officially registered as living at home but actually living and working abroad. This is not as true of Russia.

  63. Mr. XYZ says

    @Anatoly Karlin: Can Russia’s government try increasing the desired family size of the Russian population, though?

    Also, by your logic here, wouldn’t all countries eventually see a rapid increase in their total fertility rate due to the “breeders” becoming a greater and greater percentage of the total population?

  64. Mr. XYZ says

    @Annatar: Fair point about the religious Jews in Israel.

    Also, though, how exactly would you create a cultural shift in Russia which creates a desire for more babies? Any ideas?

  65. Mr. XYZ says

    : Weren’t the trends in Ukraine in favor of the E.U. even before the Maidan Revolution?

    Also, it is worth noting that Belarusians also appear to gradually become more and more pro-E.U. over time:

    Indeed, it looks like Russia simply can’t compete with the West in regards to this–something which isn’t very surprising due to the West’s much larger wealth and prosperity!

  66. they will have 20,000 children in a typical year, so much less than your estimate of 100,000.

    I never estimated that they would give birth to 100,000 children in a typical year. My number was given for one and a half and I assumed that these one and a half years were anything but typical. They just arrived in Canaan. There were almost surely a lot of delayed babies who weren’t born in the Turkish refugee camps, but now in Germany there’s little reason to delay them further.

    Births to women of Asian citizenship (including the whole continent from Israel to Indonesia), rose from 20,000 to 25,000 between 2012 and 2015.

    Does this mean that Asians have a lower fertility rate than Germans proper? 25,000 is just 3.3% of the 740,000 births, whereas the 3 million Turks alone are 3.75% of the total population of 80 million. There must be other Asians, too. Or are they counting Turks as Europeans?

  67. Did they suddenly move abroad just last year? The question is why they dropped.

  68. Yes, the Earth is not going to get depopulated because of the so-called demographic transition.

  69. The government controls the media. The advertisements should always show happy and successful families with three or more children. Same with movies. Or TV shows. Magazines. Etc.

  70. That is not what the statistics are saying.
    For that matter, it is not what is going on.
    Belarus is primarily participating in the Eurasian integration.

  71. wouldn’t *all* countries eventually see a rapid increase in their total fertility rate due to the “breeders” becoming a greater and greater percentage of the total population


    Here is a comment on this:

  72. Cicerone was talking about a broad downwards trend in fertility across f.USSR in recent months, which is really quite unexpected and interesting.

    I assume that all those countries didn’t decide to change their registration procedures in unison.

  73. Not surprising when Russia’s “best friend” Lukashenko transparently tries to play Russia off against the EU in return for Russian gas gibs, while prosecuting Russian nationalists within his country and allowing zmagyrs free reign to proselytize about how Belarus is the true successor of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

    When he is overthrown and flees to Moscow I am sure that the kremlins will reward him with a comfortable retirement mansion, perhaps next to Yanukovych’s.

  74. Cicerone says

    Migrants indeed show elevated fertility once they arrive, but it is not that high, because there are also adjustments to be made, even when, as a refugee, you simply get your ass coated in sugar.

    Does this mean that Asians have a lower fertility rate than Germans proper? 25,000 is just 3.3% of the 740,000 births, whereas the 3 million Turks alone are 3.75% of the total population of 80 million. There must be other Asians, too. Or are they counting Turks as Europeans?

    Turks are indeed counted as Europeans in that statistic.

  75. Cicerone says

    In addition to what Anatoly and reiner Tor said, in the case of the Baltics tehy actually revised earlier fertility rates upwards after they found out in the census of 2011 that they had fewer people than they initially thought. Inbetween, they have improved a bit on their registration systems and show emigration as it happens. Poland, Romania and Bulagria are the notorious countries having inflated population figures, as even in the census they treat people living abroad as living in the country. According to official Polish statistics, there has been no emigration wave at all in the last two decades, while we all know that at least a million Poles left the country. Consequentially, the officially published TFR of Poland is probably 0.1 children too low.

  76. truthman says

    IIRC February numbers were really bad, about 128k, March was 148 k, so on a per day basis that’s about 200 kids more born every day in March then in Feb, or a 6k improvement on the month when adjusting for February’s 28 days. Good news about marriage improvement. Hope this is just a blip.
    Or, could this be somehow related to AK’s move back to Russia?

  77. I looked at Belarusian demography and it’s pretty good. It’s similar to Russian with a lag of a year or two. Considering that Belarus is almost 100% Slavic/European TFR is very good.

  78. Mr. Hack says

    I don’t think that Yanukovych’s new digs in Rostov are comparable to his ‘Golden toilet Rococo palazzo supremo’ that he had built near Kyiv. At least I’ve not seen any good photos of it posted on the internet? I’m thinking that Lukashenko also wouldn’t be much interested in spending his retirement in Russia…I do recall that Yanukovych also had an impressive mansion on the banks of the Black Sea within the Crimea too. Perhaps his ex got that residence as a result of their divorce settlement? I hope that Russian real estate taxes are better than in Ukraine, seeing as things have not been going Yanukovych’s way in trying to obtain back approximately 1.4 billion in ill gotten gains. 🙂

  79. Philip Owen says

    Perhaps the Kremlin might ponder why they needed to do it?

  80. Philip Owen says

    The immediate issue is the shrinkage of the Russian workforce. It is taking two hits. One from the demographic dip now entering the workforce and the other from the 60’s baby boom now retiring. Russia is going to be down 7-8m workers by 2025 or so – crudely 10% of the workforce – assumptions can vary. The big problem is that there will be a rise in dependency ratio. The recent baby boom will not be in work and the pensioners will not be dead. To maintain the dependants as many as 10m new workers might be required. GDP per head will decline unless the following actions are taken:

    -Invest in productivity improvement (track record poor, no capital, sanctions),
    -Allow immigration on a considerable scale (It is a truism of Unz that this is bad).
    -Extend working age, lengthen working hours, move the last villagers out.

    Your earlier article on the difficulties for ethnic Russians returning to Russia shows that there is not yet joined up thinking on these issues.

    I wonder if the recent decline in TFR is the oil price drop finally hitting. The positive effects only worked through to the UK about a year ago. The Bank of England tells me that these things take 18 months to start having a behavioural effect.

  81. Yes – I was focused on the low raw number and not the change. Any guesses as to why this is happening?

  82. Thanks. As I had mentioned to AK, I was focused on the low raw numbers, not the difference.

  83. Philip Owen says

    But part of the decline in fertility relates to banking practices.

    In the 50’s in most countries with Savings & Loans/Building Societies, the couple had to save a 10% deposit and save the monthly amount they were due to pay back every month for at least a year. They were then given 3.5 times the husband’s income as a 90% loan. This was still just about the case in 1975 when I started looking for a mortgage.

    At different times in different countries, women’s income was taken into account, provoking an arms race between couples. House prices went up so women were driven into the work force. Workers now, not housewives rearing 3 children. And then single people and unmarried couples were given mortgages. The savings and deposit rule were relaxed. In the UK before the crash, unrelated people could borrow 120% of the house valuation with no income check (Northern Rock). Basically, women went out to work to pay the banks for bigger home ownership loans to buy the same house at inflated prices. The only people who benefited were the financial sector.

    Russians now buy flats with loans. The job market for young women is very bouyant. Unlike Soviet times, work is real. There is less space for children.

  84. RadicalCenter says

    Source for more-educated Germans having more children recently?

    Germans are willing themselves and their culture out of existence. The TFR of Germans, educated or not “educated”, is still woefully inadequate and I don’t see serious signs of its turning around yet. Do you?

  85. RadicalCenter says

    Not so sure that Filipinos, Koreans, Japanese, Australians, etc. will benefit from China boosting its military spending and the size/strength of its forces. Not so sure at all.

  86. RadicalCenter says

    A Russia with an at-best-stagnant population, combined with a Ukraine with a drastically plummeting population, combined with a tiny Belarus with mediocre total fertility rate at best, will not amount to 200 million people or even close to it.

    I’m not happy about this state of affairs, just pointing out that none of those three nations has enough of its own children to sustain the existing population size or age profile, let alone improve it.

  87. RadicalCenter says

    Interesting, and encouraging.

    Does this suggest that Russia might achieve better results if it incentivized the rural people to have 4 kids instead of 3, rather than trying to get more-brainwashed, deracinated urban dwellers to have 2 kids instead of 1 or none?

  88. RadicalCenter says

    Why “hell no”?

  89. Annatar says

    If Russia remains at its current TFR levels and continues improvements in LE, its natural decline will not exceed 250k p.a on average for the next few decades, an amount which can easily be offset by immigration. Belarus is likely to remain stable at around 9.5 million due to its rising TFR, if Ukraine is put under competent management and its TFR rises to Russian levels, its population will decline to around 38 million by 2050, not 32 million where it is headed today, together, that amounts to roughly 195 million, not far from 200 million, I agree with you though that Ukraine’s rapidly decreasing population is the biggest threat to achieving that population size, and if Ukraine is not put under competent management, it will simply cease to exist as a viable nation by the end of the century owing to population decline.

  90. if Ukraine is not put under competent management, it will simply cease to exist as a viable nation by the end of the century owing to population decline.

    If trends continue, the eastern parts will be become lightly populated but the Western parts will carry on. Western Ukraine’s TFR is slightly better than Russia’s. And these regions don’t have as much of a drop as the 90s kids reach peak child-bearing age. Of course, this area won’t ever join Russia. The demographic black hole of Donbas would like to.

  91. Mr. XYZ says

    @Anatoly Karlin: Just how much evidence is there that fertility is heritable, though? After all, don’t many people today have less children than their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had?

    Also, if all countries’ total fertility rate is genuinely eventually going to go up like crazy, wouldn’t pursuing radical life extension be extremely counterproductive due to the fact that it will simply cause the Earth to become even more overpopulated and resource-depleted?

    Finally, in regards to Lukashenko, wasn’t he most pro-Russian before 2000–back when he still believed that he himself had a realistic chance of eventually becoming Russia’s President (after the Russia-Belarus Union State would have solidified, that is)?

  92. Mr. XYZ says

    : Are you going to get the immigrants from Central Asia, or where? After all, Mr. Karlin previously complained about the alleged radicalism of Russia’s Central Asian immigrants as it is (though it is worth noting that I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of these immigrants only becoming radicalized after they already move to Russia–perhaps in response to things such as Russian racism)!

  93. @Anon: Exactly which statistics are you looking at?

    @AP: Isn’t the older generation the most Russophilic segment of Ukrainian society? If so, Ukraine’s Russophiles are going to die out faster than Ukraine’s nationalists even if Ukraine’s population continues to rapidly decline (which I hope won’t happen).

  94. @Anatoly Karlin: I feel like I should post this link here:

    Basically, Razib Khan’s point here appears to be that high-fertility groups such as the Amish will be incapable of maintaining their extremely high fertility over the long(er)-run due to the fact that the parameters which involve them, their society, and their country will be incapable of sustaining such a high population of these groups.

    In turn, this appears to challenge your assumption here that all countries’ total fertility rate will eventually rapidly increase, no?

    Also, if you want a real-life example of your trend in action, you can take a look at Israeli Jews:

    Now, the crucial question here is this–how long will this trend continue? Specifically, how long will the total fertility rate of Israeli Jews continue increasing?

  95. Triumph104 says

    In 2013, the total fertility rate for white American women was 1.75 and the TFR for black American women was 1.88. The reason the rate for blacks was so close to whites is abortion. Black women have three to four times the rate of abortions as white women.

    For decades abortion has been a major birth control method in the Soviet Union/Russia. From 1957 to 2006 there were more abortions than births — 52% to 73% of pregnancies were aborted.

    In a country where birth control costs more than an abortion procedure, the practice has not only become the norm– it is the top birth control method in the country. Until recently, Russian women reportedly had seven abortions over their lifetime.  In 2003, BBC reported there were 13 abortions for every 10 live births; Reuters reported in 2009 that there were 73 abortions per 100 births in Russia. LINK

    It is very likely that some event in the first half of 2016 prompted thousands of Russian women to get an abortion. The Americas were dealing with Zika — did Russia have some pregnancy-related problem during that time?

  96. True, western Ukraine’s population will be far more stable as its TFR tends to be around 1.7 – 2.0 compared to the sub 1.5 levels seen in the center and east. Ukraine as a whole however I don’t see functioning as a nation when its population has gone down to 20 million, 30% of its population is over 65 and its GDP per capita is stuck at Indian levels.

    Any nation which has an ageing and declining population but which also has a low GDP per capita as is characteristic of certain Eastern European nations is in for a world of pain, low fertility and low GDP per capita is the worst possible combination for a nation to deal with.

  97. Annatar says

    I doubt increasing fertility in rural area’s further is worth the effort considering the distribution of the population, 74% of Russia’s population lives in urban areas, the impact of a 1% increase in urban fertility is equivalent to a 2.9% rise in the rural fertility rate. Furthermore, I don’t really see rural fertility rising much further.

    I think Russia would be better off trying to get its urban TFR up to around 1.9, something which I consider to be achievable relatively easily.

  98. Just how much evidence is there that fertility is heritable, though?

    There is I think some evidence out there that having more kids under a certain set of circumstances is heritable. For example, having more kids in industrial/post-industrial societies is something requires you to forego luxuries and accept lower standard of living in exchange for having more kids.

    After all, don’t many people today have less children than their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had?

    Those were under different circumstances. Under those circumstances today’s hipsters would have more kids than Gypsies – because Gypsy kids would succumb to disease, while hipsters would conceive considerably more.

  99. A few reasons why it’d be good:

    1) Rural people are better soldiers. So from a military viewpoint it’s better to have more rural than urban children.

    2) They are more nationalistic, so more loyal to the state and less likely to defect.

    3) They make the country more densely populated in ways that don’t apply to urbanites. A few big cities in an uninhabited land make it difficult to control the borders or the country in general.

    I think that while increasing their fertility might be more difficult to produce meaningful results, the costs might also be very low, precisely because of their lower overall numbers.

  100. the costs might also be very low, precisely because of their lower overall numbers.

    So it should be possible to try both.

  101. zmagyr

    What does it mean?

  102. Thanks. Possible, we’ll see anyway.

  103. …Western Ukraine’s population will be far more stable as its TFR tends to be around 1.7 – 2.0 compared to the sub 1.5 levels seen in the center and east. Ukraine as a whole however I don’t see functioning as a nation when its population has gone down to 20 million, 30% of its population is over 65 and its GDP per capita is stuck at Indian levels.

    1. One of the two Ukrainian regions with the worst TFR (Donbas) has left Ukraine and hopefully will stay out. The other region with low TFR, the northeast, is in however.

    2. The Ukrainian regions with the lowest TFR also have the lowest life expectancy. Put cruelly, this means there will be less of a burden, because these people tend to die younger and not have long lives as non-working pensioners. It’s not Japan.

    3. Ukraine’s nominal per capita GDP ($2,194) is higher than India’s ($1,723). In terms of PPP, the difference is greater – $8,305 Ukraine vs. $6,616. If Ukraine’s economic output remains steady while its population declines, per capita GDP will increase.

    4. There is significant outsourcing expansion (not only in IT, but also light manufacturing) in western Ukraine, suggesting sustainable economic growth in that relatively high TFR region. The southern black earth agricultural region and its port of Odessa seem to have decent prospects. Only the eastern industrial regions seem to have a poor prognosis.

    5. Ukraine will also, of course, always benefit significantly from remittances.

  104. Mr. Hack says

    Strange…a piece about ‘Russia’s fertility rates’ taking a huge dive, over 100 comments, and not one peep about how this will playout down the road in Siberia and other already sparsely populated humongous areas in the Far Eastern part of Russia? Where’s the white (as in non-Asian) Russian glue that will supposedly hold this mass together for further exploitation from the center? As Chinese ‘immigrants’ keep crossing the border and putting up stakes in this part of the world, how will this eventually playout in Moscow and other larger cities that are already feeling the impact of the rising Asian tide?

    ‘Any kind of Chinese expansion into the region will eventually bring about a question: What is Beijing’s claim there? Most of the border region — an area roughly the size of Iran — used to be Chinese. Russia took the territory in 1858 and 1860 with the Treaties of Aigun and Peking, respectively. Of all of the unequal treaties forced upon the Qing dynasty by outside powers in the 19th century, these are the only two China has not managed to overcome. China and Russia signed a border agreement in 1999, but the Beijing government has never formally accepted the Aigun and Peking treaties…The Russian Far East also holds resources that are valuable to an ever-growing China. The region is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and timber. It is easier to send these goods to Asia instead of shipping them 3,000 miles to Moscow. The size of the Russian work force is shrinking as the country grows older. China’s young — and growing — population is more than able to fill the gap and exploit these resources.’

    This Chinese clip reveals that China still harbors animosity towards Russia for annexing lands it considers to be Chinese in the 19th century…’Russia is a very bizarre country’…

  105. Anonymous says

    There are an estimated 200-400,000 Chinese in Russia. That’s not much and it’s not likely to be growing or growing fast. For one thing China is no longer poor but middle income and becoming affluent, reducing the pressure to migrate (unless you have a lot of assets and want citizenship in a country with more stable property rights).

    I noticed in 2014 when West-Russian relations were breaking down, several stories in major news/cultural publications surfaced about the Chinese menace to Russian boundaries. I believe those kinds of stories were dormant before 2014 and resurfaced because of an agenda to undermine relations and cause Russia to be reluctant to take up an alliance that would strengthen its hand against the West.

  106. Anonymous says

    “low fertility and low GDP per capita is the worst possible combination for a nation to deal with”

    Why would it be worse than say high fertility and low GDP per capita (ie Africa and North India)?

  107. Because low fertility also implies an older population, dealing with an old population with a low level of economic output per capita is much more difficult then dealing with a young population with a low GDP per capita because of the burden old people place on the economy, young people can still be utilized in the way old people cannot in economic production, although with a move towards a more tech driven economy globally, that may change.

    1. True, I agree.
    2. True, but even with a LE of around 67 – 70, with a TFR of 1.5, the population will still experience significant ageing, and I assume Ukrainan LE will rise over time to at least 75, that will have little impact on population growth as that is driven purely by TFR in the long run but will make the population older.

    3. Ukraine’s GDP per capita is currently somewhat higher then India’s but all the projections I have seen indicate that India’s GDP per capita will continue to grow by 5% or more p.a at least through to 2030 whereas Ukraine I doubt will manage even 2% per capita growth, the IMF which is quite optimistic on Ukraine projects Ukraine will grow by 3.5 to 4% between 2017-2022, it has Ukraine’s GDP per capita in PPP terms being $11,700 vs $10,900 for India’s, just a 7% difference and India’s GDP per capita will probably overtake Ukraine’s by 2025.

    Although, I think in a peaceful Ukraine in the very long run, its GDP per capita should exceed that of India considering its mean IQ is around 97 – 100 vs 80 – 83 for India.

    1. You are right that the the industrial areas in Ukraine are not likely experience a lot of growth unless they can reform their economic structure, we will have to see however how well other regions in Ukraine perform economically.

    2. I agree, but remittances to Ukraine will never exceed a few percentage points of GDP, hardly enough to make a major impact in my estimation.

  108. Mr. XYZ says

    @Annatar: Wouldn’t India’s average IQ be much higher than that if India was able to eliminate various problems which reduce intelligence (such as malnutrition, bacteria, lack of meat eating, et cetera)?

  109. Mr. XYZ says

    @Mr. Hack: China should be perfectly capable of purchasing the natural resources from these territories. Indeed, doing this should be much better than engaging in a nuclear war for these territories, don’t you think?

  110. remittances to Ukraine will never exceed a few percentage points of GDP

    It was over 5% already in 2014. It could easily reach 10%. See here.

    There could be some difficulties, but unlikely to persist in my opinion.

  111. Annatar says

    Thanks for the data, I thought remittances to Ukraine were in the 3 – 4% range, you are right, it looks like remittances could rise even further, especially if the Hryvnia devalues further, thereby raising the value of remittances in Ukraine relative to GDP.