Mark Adomanis in Philadelphia -
Despite frequently being labeled as a “dying nation”, Russian demography has been on the rebound for much of the last decade. After bottoming out in 1999, the total fertility rate has increased by around 45% while average life expectancy has shot up by around five years.
The total results of this growth in fertility and decline in mortality is best shown by the following chart, which shows the rate of natural population growth per 1,000. “Natural” population growth is a technical demographic term for the change in population not attributable to migration: it is the number of births minus the number of deaths adjusted for population size. Russia’s natural growth rate went from -6.5 per 1,000 (which amounts to a loss roughly 800,000 a year) in the early 2000’s to a small positive level of 0.2 per 1,000 (growth of roughly 20,000) by 2014.
However, over the past several months things have rapidly turned sour. After growing for almost all of 2014, the number of births in November and December were down sharply. In the first quarter of 2015 births were off modestly (0.8%) from their 2014 level. However the death rate was up by more than 5%.
The 5% increase in deaths registered from January-March is the worst performance in at least a decade. If recent trends hold over the course of the entire year, Russia will experience the worst year-over-year change in its population trajectory since the 1998-99 debt crisis.
It’s unclear to what extent the crisis in Ukraine is to blame, but based on previous Russian experience during the 1990s it seems likely that the general atmosphere of instability, uncertainty and stress caused a spike in cardiovascular mortality. Rosstat’s most recent data is consistent with this hypothesis, showing a 20%(!) increase in deaths from respiratory disease, and a 4.6% increase in deaths from diseases of the circulatory system.
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