Staunton, March 31 – The Higher School of Economics has just released a 337-page report, The Black Swan in the White Mask, which offers a preliminary report on how Russia has coped with the pandemic socially and economically and offers an assessment of the government’s response (full text at hse.ru/mirror/pubs/share/456528716.pdf, summarized at hse.ru/news/expertise/456528729.html).
The report brings together in a preliminary way an enormous mass of data, some but not all of which have been reported earlier to provide a kind of baseline on the occasion of the first anniversary of Moscow’s imposition of a lockdown, something it suggests can be viewed as the beginning of the government’s response to the pandemic.
One new finding that has attracted attention concerns an unintended consequence of Russian government policy. Because Moscow decided to provide aid to families with children but not to others, families with children did not see the deterioration in their economic situation that families without them did.
Before the pandemic, the HSE says, only 3.8 percent of families without children were belong the poverty line. Now, 8.3 percent are, more than double (meduza.io/news/2021/03/31/v-rossii-za-vremya-pandemii-v-dva-raza-vyroslo-kolichestvo-bednyh-semey-bez-detey-potomu-chto-semyam-s-detmi-pomogali-a-im-net).
At the same time, before the pandemic, 25.7 percent of families with children up to three years of age and 23.4 percent of those with children aged three to seven were below the poverty line. But over the past year, thanks to subsidies, those figures rose respectively to 29.9 percent and 23.9 percent respectively.
Russians have long thought that a major source of their country’s demographic problems is that having children places an enormous financial burden on parents and therefore couples will choose not to have children in order to avoid falling down the economic latter. These figures confirm that, but they also show that government intervention can make an enormous difference.