Monday, December 30, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Structure of Russian Family Continues to Change, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 – Despite the traditionalism being promoted by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian family continues to change, with more people living alone or with those to whom they are not married and having fewer children than their parents, according to a scholar at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

            Between the 2002 and 2010 censuses, Lidiya Prokofyeva says the number of households made up of people not related to each other by birth or marriage rose by 150 percent.  Over the same eight years, the number of households with only one member rose by three percent to more than one in four or 14 million in all (

            The number of single-member households grew faster in the cities than in the villages, from 22.4 percent in 2002 to 26.2 percent in 2010 while in the villages that statistic rose from 22.1 percent – roughly the same as in the cities at that time – to 24.2 percent, two percent fewer, Prokofyeva notes.

            Single-member households especially among the elderly – defined as those over 65 -- largely consist of women. Almost half of such households (48.8 percent) are headed by a woman over all, and 63 percent of them are headed by a woman in the villages. Overall, only 18.2 percent of such households consist of men, who on average live far less long than do women.

            The last decade looks relatively stable only because the most significant changes in the structure of Russian families took place during two earlier post-war periods, 1959-1989 and 1989-2002. In the first, the nuclear family became dominant, and in the second, that trend was reversed, in both cases largely because of economic changes.

            The process of moving away from the nuclear family as the norm continued, however. Between 1970 and 2010, the share of families in Russia with two parents with or without children fell from 82.1 percent to 69.4 percent, and the percentage of other arrangements rose but ever more slowly.

            At the same time, Prokofyeva points out, family size overall continued to decline, from 3.65 people in 1959 to 3.people in 2002 and 3.1 people in 2010. Within that, the share of families with three people remained relatively stable while that of families with only two people rose from 34.2 percent in 1989 to 38.4 percent in 2010.
            Some of this change reflects the aging of the population, some of it the impact of gastarbeiters on the overall statistics, and some the choices of Russians as to how many children they will have, the sociologist says.
            Two-thirds of Russian families had two children in both the 2002 and 2010 censuses, and the share of those with three – 27 percent – remained stable as well.  But there has been a slight increase in the number with three or more, rising from 5.4 percent in 2002 to 5.8 percent in 2010.  Three quarters of this last group have three children. Fewer than one in 12 have five or more.
            But it is important to remember that the existence of large families has what Prokofyeva calls “a regional character,” but what others would call an ethnic one.  She notes that the place with the largest share of large families is in the North Caucasus and that such large families are “a rarity” elsewhere.
            With that in mind, she presents a typology of regions.  The share of regions whose families had an average number of children under 18 of between 1.3 and 1.36 fell by 10 percent between 2002 and 2010. The share of regions whose families had 1.37 to 1.43 rose over that period from 21.3 to 26.5 percent. But those with families with more than 1.44 children fell.

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