Russia’s Fertility Preferences

This is a Russia-specific offshoot to my previous post Where Do Babies Come from?

For reference purposes, here is how Russia’s actual TFR has developed since the end of WW2.

Since I last posted substantially on the topic of Russia fertility preferences in 2009-2010, a lot more data has come in. Here is a survey of opinion polls on Russian expected fertility and ideal fertility since the end of the USSR.

. Year Real TFR Expected TFR Ideal TFR
V.A. Belova 1969 1.97 2.21 2.69
WVS 1992 1.55 2.72
WVS 1997 1.22 2.33
Rosstat 2005 1.29 1.73 2.28
Rosstat 2009 1.54 1.72 2.28
Rosstat 2012 1.69 1.92 2.28
VCIOM 2014 1.75 2.32
Rosstat 2017 1.62 1.88 2.15
VCIOM 2018 1.59 2.57

* First source is Valentina Belova (1975): Число детей в семье [pdf], pp.98 based on ИРУ 1969 survey. Graph for all the Soviet republics is attached on the right.
* I only give the figures for female respondents in the Rosstat studies (male answers are very similar anyway); the WVS and VCIOM data is given for both sexes.
* In Rosstat’s surveys, only women of reproductive age were polled; in the other cases, all age groups were polled.
* Data for Rosstat for 2005 is my own back of the enveloped projection based on results from three Russian provinces (Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Mari El); I averaged expected and ideal TFR for them, averaged real TFR for them, and added the difference between the latter and Russia’s total TFR in 2005 to the former. The two latter Rosstat studies are the highest powered n’s, asking about 5,000 women; the VCIOM polls queried 2,000 people.

With the exception of the sudden uptick registered in the 2018, ideal fertility seems to be remarkably stable at 2.3 children from the late 1990s, though expected fertility has climbed up from 1.7 children per woman during the 2000s to 1.9 children per woman in the 2010s.

European data from the early 2000s suggests an average ~0.55 child gap between ideal and realized fertility amongst women of reproductive age, which would translate to an expected fertility rate of 2.30 or 2.15 (most recent) – .55 = 1.60-1.75 children per woman for Russia (subtract 0.08 children per woman to get an approximate figure for ethnic Russians).

This is strongly similar to fertility in the past few years, which reached a peak of 1.78 children per woman in 2015 before sharply falling to ~1.59 children per woman last year.

A more pessimistic interpretation is to use the gap observed in Eastern Europe, which in the early 2000s constituted 0.8 children per woman (see average of Visegrad, Baltics, Bulgaria, Romania). This would translate to a long-term expected Russian average of 1.5 children per woman at best. However, at that time, Eastern Europe was in the midst of a painful socio-economic transition, with fertility rebounding across the region since then. This is almost certainly an unwarranted interpretation. It would also put Russia’s real TFR strongly out of sync with its average birth sequence, which has risen from 1.6 children per woman to 1.7 children per woman since the late 2000s [see here].

Prediction: Retreat in Russian TFR observed in 2016-18 will halt, modestly recover, and stabilize at around 1.7 children per woman by 2020.

Though not particularly impressive, nor is it particularly catastrophic, at least by First World standards; in the past decade, the average TFR in the EU has been around 1.55-1.6 children per woman (now probably down to around 1.5 children per woman after the previous two years of global fertility decline). For comparison, US fertility will be down to around 1.73 children per woman in 2018. Incidentally, this would suggest a grand convergence between white TFRs in the world’s three polities (US, EU, Russia) with the largest white populations.

(Incidentally, since we’re now drawing the US into the comparison, for completion’s sake – here is a graph of American desired/ideal fertility is shown at the right; via demographer Lyman Stone. At 2.34 children per woman as of 2012, it is now virtually the same as the Russian figures).

The 2018 VCIOM survey is interesting in that in the past year, this pollster has started including the raw data files. For reference, the .sav file can be downloaded here.

I did some quick tests on it, but didn’t find anything particularly interesting (e.g. that fertility preferences rose slightly with age). But maybe you’ll find something more interesting.

The latest Rosstat surveys [2012, 2017] provide a wealth of detailed demographic information. The 2012 results are also summarized in video format.

Concerning the specific issue of fertility preferences in the 2017 survey:

  1. Desired number of children is highest amongst 30-34 y/o women [2.29 children] and lowest amongst <25 and 40-44 y/o women [2.03 children].

  2. Dysgenics angle:

Education Women Men
Ideal TFR Expected TFR Ideal TFR Expected TFR
Primary 2.60 2.24 2.25 2.08
General (incomplete) 2.42 2.19 2.18 1.84
General (complete) 2.26 2.05 2.16 1.86
General + Vocational 2.17 1.88 2.15 1.86
Incomplete Higher Professional 2.05 1.89 2.13 1.87
Professional (Bachelor’s) 2.10 1.80 2.18 1.93
Professional (Postgrad) 1.92 1.50 1.78 1.65
No Education 0.93 0.93 1.01 0.81
  1. Evidence for the heritability of fertility preferences. Much more on that in forthcoming Age of Malthusian Industrialism posts.
Number of children of respondent’s mother Women Men
Ideal TFR Expected TFR Ideal TFR Expected TFR
1 1.84 1.56 1.79 1.57
2 2.12 1.84 2.12 1.85
3 2.34 2.06 2.30 2.00
4 2.63 2.35 2.57 2.21
5+ 2.88 2.60 2.76 2.38

(3) 40% of Russians say the state should help families have as many children as they want, while 46% go further and say that the state should pursue natalist objectives. Only 13% of women and 15% of men say the state should not interfere with reproductive matters in any way.

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. Why is the no-education ideal TFR so low?

    Also, this is off-topic, but I figure that I might as well ask this question right now anyway since I don’t know when you’re going to talk about this issue again:

    Do you think that a surviving Tsarist Russia (or, alternatively, a post-Tsarist but non-Bolshevik Russia) would have been more successful at colonizing the “Near Abroad” than the Soviet Union was? Note–I am not talking about Russifying Ukrainians and Belarusians here; rather, I am talking about getting large numbers of ethnic (Great) Russians to move to and settle in the “Near Abroad.”

    I am especially curious about this topic given that the Communists were relatively successful in getting a lot of ethnic Russians to settle in Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in real life. However, the Communists also failed to get an ethnic Russian majority in any of these territories–though Kazakhstan did briefly have a Slavic majority if one includes Ukrainians and Belarusians.

  2. Why would commies want russians to grow and spread?

  3. Ask them.

    They would presumably want more manpower and a tighter control over their empire.

  4. For that, I`d probably have to go to US! Russian “commies” nowadays consist of Commercial Party of Russian Federation, whoring out mandates gained by ever declining babushka vote and/or weird curiosities like Limonov.

    On a more serious note, we should divide commies in Russia by period then, roughly before stalinist purges and after till collapse.

  5. Russia has lots of cheap land, a strong economy and a supportive government so it will be interesting to see what will happen with TFR.

  6. Article suggesting overcrowded Japan should accept a little population decline rather than embracing immigration.

  7. anonymous coward says

    Japan is not overcrowded.

    Tokyo maybe is overcrowded, but that has nothing to do with population growth.

  8. londonbob ! everybody around the world knows britains fertility preferences ! blonde hair, fake tan, short skirt, booze, kebab, minicab and oh ! what did i do last night and who did i do it with and how many did i do it with and what colour were they and what countries did they come from ! lol !