Monday, January 13, 2020

Poverty among Young Russians Now Will Cast a Shadow Long into the Future, Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 10 – Millions of Russians are suffering from low incomes now, but because their suffering has a most profound influence on the children among them, Mariya Yefremova and Olga Poluektova say, the current difficulties are likely to cast a dark shadow long into the future of Russia.

            Yefremova, a senior scholar at the Moscow Higher School of Economics, and Olga Poluektova of Bremen’s International Higher School of Social Sciences, say that poverty in childhood profoundly affects psychological development and leaves a mark even if that poverty is overcome.

            Their study, “The Interrelationship of Adult and Child Poverty Regarding the Psychological Characteristics of the Personality” is published in the latest issue of the Moscow journal, Social Psychology and Society (in Russian, 10:3 (2019): 118-126, at

                In 2017, they report, the monthly income of 30 percent of Russian families with children under three and almost 20 percent of the families with children under 18 was below the officially set minimum income. That is tragic, but even more tragic is that such difficulties in childhood echo in adulthood.

            Childhood poverty, especially if it is prolonged, Yefremova and Poluektova say their investigation shows, lowers the self-evaluation of the individual and his or her faith in his own abilities to deal with challenges “even if when having grown up, the individual achieves financial well-being.” 

            In fact, their study of 350 Russians found, even those who had achieved median or better incomes after a childhood of poverty remained emotionally stunted because such people lacked confidence in their ability to navigate life and meant that they lived with the constant fear that they could become poor again.

            The scholars found that those whose childhoods were less poor had far higher self-assessments than those whose childhoods were even if by the time they reached adulthood their relative positions had changed, an indication that childhood poverty in Russia (and it should be added elsewhere as well) matters far more and far longer than many assume.

            Just acquiring more money in adulthood is not enough, despite what some in the Kremlin and elsewhere appear to believe.    

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