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East Europe and Former USSR

Availability Of Children

Because most women at old ages have no husbands, children become an important alternative source of social contact and support. However, the same low birth rates responsible for population aging also guarantee fewer children in aging populations. Figure 1 showed this parallel for entire populations, though Total Fertility Rates are only temporary annual measures of childbearing. Their volatility overstates long-term changes in completed family sizes. For individual women in populations, the change is less dramatic but still noticeable for different generations. Lifetime completed fertility of women also declined throughout the region. The long-term decline began earlier in the twentieth century in eastern Europe, and extended into the twenty-first century in the central Asian republics. Children as sources of support became more scarce at precisely the time that older widows increased as a share of the population.

This demographic paradox was accented in several eastern European and former Soviet countries at the turn of the century by the legacy of very severe losses of young men during the Second World War. Particularly for Russia, Germany, and other central combatants, an unusual share of women growing old as the twentieth century came to an end had either lost husbands early in life or never married at all. They were particularly unlikely to be married or to have any children or other immediate family. As their generation gradually passed from the stage in the twenty-first century, this intense shortage of family ties in a few countries was relaxed for younger generations.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2East Europe and Former USSR - Population Aging And The Birth Rate, Sex Ratio Contrasts In Old Age, Marital Status Contrasts At Old Ages