More Russian babies are born out of
A story published today by the Moscow Times reports that according to a study done by
the Center for Demography and Human Ecology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, nearly
one-third of all babies born in Russia last year were born to unwed mothers.
More than 40 percent of these babies were born to teenagers, according to the
statistics, which were compiled and published in the Nov. 5-18 issue of the center's
The number of births to married women dropped from 1.87 million in 1989 to 912,500 in
2000, while the number of births to unmarried women increased from 291,700 to 354,300 the
study showed. The percentage of births to unmarried women jumped from 13 percent to 28
But the implications of this trend remain unclear, said Sergei Zakharov, the center's
laboratory head who co-authored the article.
This is because Russia has few statistics on its single mothers, such as whether they
are living with the fathers of their children or what their income and education levels
are, he said.
The last time out-of-wedlock births reached a similarly high level was during World War
II, when roughly one-quarter of children were born to unmarried women. The reason was
clear: Millions of young men were dying on the front lines.
Today's trend is harder to explain.
The number of births to unmarried teenagers, ages 15-19, grew more rapidly than any
other age group from 55,695 in 1990 to 66,859 in 2000, a percentage leap from 20
percent to 41 percent. The teenage population also grew during the decade.
Women over 40 account for about 35 percent of the births to unwed mothers, a percentage
that was fairly stable throughout the 1990s.
The government statistics show that, although once higher in the countryside, the
number of children born to unmarried women in rural and urban areas evened out in the
To understand the implications for the children and society of the growing number of
out-of-wedlock births, we need to know the social status of the women having these babies,
Zakharov said. He pointed to Western research that has shown a connection between single
parenthood and poverty.
"Demographers and sociologists are looking for help from the government," he
said. "But a focus on the decline in the overall birth rate means there is no real