Mass Migration or Premature Mortality: The Changing Gender Composition of the Russian North in the post-Soviet period

Monday, 18 August 2014
Exhibit hall (Dena'ina Center)
Timothy E Heleniak, PhD , University of Maryland, Long Island City, NY
INTRODUCTION: Russia has lowest male sex ratio in the world, currently 88 males per 100 females, and the highest female life expectancy, currently 13 years. The 16 regions defined as the Russian North, have a different demographic profile because of the occupational demands of industry. During the two decades of the economic transition away from central planning, these regions underwent significant social and economic upheaval, resulting in significant out-migration of more than half of the population of some regions. This paper examines changes in the sex ratio in the Russian North during the two decades since the beginning of economic reforms and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

METHODS:  Analysis of changes in the sex composition of the Russian North is done in two stages. The first disaggregates the sex composition into net migration and natural increase using data from the 1989, 2002, and 2010 censuses and annual vital statistics data. The second disaggregates causes of death by gender into major categories.

RESULTS: Since 1989, the male-female sex ratio in the Russian North declined from 100.7 to 91.1. Rather unexpectedly, over this two-decade period, three quarters of the change is attributed to widening differences in natural increase (decrease) between men and women. Much of these widening differences are due to large differences between men and women from cardiovascular diseases and external causes of death (murder, suicide, poisonings, and accidents).

CONCLUSIONS:  The excess mortality of men during this period in the Russian North is a mortality and public health crisis which has received scant attention. The shifting gender roles and loss of jobs has affected men in the Russian North much more so than women, who responded not through migration but through premature death. The result of these mortality trends is that some regions have perhaps the highest female life expectancy advantage in the world, now 16 years.