Thursday, September 26, 2019

Moscow Wants Russians to Have More Children But Their Friends and Colleagues Don’t, New Study Finds

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 22 -- Because the fertility rate among Russians has long been below replacement levels of 2.2 children per lifetime per woman, the Russian government has sought to encourage Russian women to have more children via subsidies and other means in order to address the country’s and especially the ethnic Russians’ demographic decline.

            But Russian women are refusing to do so, seeing larger families as a burden that will drive them into poverty or keep them from achieving their personal goals.  In addition, a new study finds, women are increasingly surrounded by friends and colleagues who view having more than two children as “exceeding the norm” and thus inappropriate or even wrong.

            Moscow sociologist Mariya Goleva reached that conclusion on the basis of 25 deep interviews (“Network Effects on Birthrates” (in Russian), Ekonomicheskaya sotsiologiya 20:3 (2019): 136-157 at; summarized at

            The women Goleva interviewed said they were discouraged from having more than two children by doctors, officials, neighbors, and even people on the street and even urged to have an abortion if they became pregnant after having two. Even leaders in kindergartens and schools often criticized those with more than two children.

             As one of her subjects put it, if one wants a large family, one must overcome the opposition of society. Sometimes relatives support them in their plans but on others, they oppose them pointing to the difficulties ahead for any woman who has three or more children, attitudes that the state has not yet been able to change.

            What makes this study important is that it suggests that small family size has become widely institutionalized as a preference among Russians and that the government’s pro-natalist efforts face an uphill challenge, one that will not be overcome by financial subsidies alone.  And that means in turn that Russia’s demographic decline from this cause is going to continue.   

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