Mortality-migration interplay in Russia

Boris P. Denisov, Moscow State University
Vassily Vlassov

Russia experiences uniquely high level of mortality. The lack of positive trends in this area is even more interesting. Demographers mostly explain these phenomena with alcohol consumption, especially hard drinking of strong beverages; smoking habits; and bad diet. Since mid 1960s life expectancy in Russia was quietly dropping. The significant disturbance in its dynamic followed after Gorbachev reforms. Usually observers assign this zigzag to rise and fall of antialcohol campaign. The collapse of the Soviet Union did not stop that unfavorable trend. Russia’s economic growth followed after expected deep crisis brings a lot of migrants into Russian labor force. Most experts agree that registration of migrants is far of being perfect, but they differ in a degree of undercount. On the contrary the registration of death is of much better quality. Thus in ordinary mortality rates the denominators are likely reduced and represent a part of population at risk, while the nominators are more likely equal to a true value. One of preliminary assumptions about a degree of reduction in denominators in mortality of a labor force (twenty mln unregistered workers) produces as much as five years to add to life expectancy, and it seems unbelievable. However, more modest hypotheses give about one year increase in life expectancy and about four mln unregistered workers, which seems rather acceptable. Undertaken simulations revealed that realistic assumption about the level of undercount of migrants produce the increase in life expectancies commensurable with its annual change. Thus migration undercount (e.g., delay in registration) could hide a possible positive trend in Russian mortality, even in the case of migrant mortality same to that of native population, albeit migrant mortality is somewhat higher due to sectoral differences in employment.

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Presented in Session 18: Data Collection and Analysis Issues