Staunton, January 22 – Russian women who have children at all are giving birth to their first baby at 26.1 years, five years more than the 20.9 years at which they gave birth in 1995-1999, and they are increasing the interval between the first and second child from three years two decades ago to 5.6 years now, according to a Rosstat study reported today by Izvestiya.
That reflects both the desire of women to complete their educations and enter the workforce before having children and their fears that they may not be able to rely on Russian men to support them if they become mothers, the study says (iz.ru/696411/nataliia-berishvili/rossiianki-otlozhili-materinstvo).
In addition, the Rosstat research found, Russian women want fewer children or none at all. At present, 36.8 percent of women have only one child, 26.5 percent two, and only seven percent have three or more. “Almost 30 percent of the respondents said they did not have any children at all.”
This shift toward having children later or not at all and having smaller families is common to many countries. In Russia, it is especially significant because it imposes severe constraints on the Kremlin’s demographic policies which are based almost exclusively on trying to boost fertility rather than addressing the super-high mortality rates among working-age males.
A second poll, this one conducted by VTsIOM, gives some basis for optimism in the Kremlin but not nearly as much as Vladimir Putin has routinely expressed. Forty-nine percent of Russian women say they would have more children if they received promised government subsidies, but 44 percent say they would not (wciom.ru/index.php?id=236&uid=116649).
But that polling agency, which many say is closely linked to the Putin regime, reported as well that over the last 12 years, even as most women have expressed preferences for fewer children or none, the share who want four or more children has doubled and now forms 14 percent (lenta.ru/news/2018/01/22/children/).
What that means, Stepan Lvov, head of VTsIOM’s research department, says, is that any improvement in the overall fertility rate is going to take place “not from the large number of small families (with one or two children) but from the large number of children in families with large numbers of children.”
And that in turn almost certainly means that any improvement in overall fertility will occur because of more births among the less educated and lower income sectors of the population predominantly in rural locations rather than more educated and higher income groups in urban areas, a pattern that will entail other consequences as well.