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World News and Trends: Soviet fall hits population hard

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Soviet fall hits population hard

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Observing declining birth rates and rising death rates, some demographers estimate that the Russian population may shrink by 15 million over the next few decades.

Before, government policy—through cash allowances, larger apartments, supplemental food and other benefits—encouraged citizens to have more children. However, with the downfall of that system many of those incentives evaporated. As a result, the birth rate has plunged to nine births per 1,000 citizens, among the lowest in the world.

Meanwhile, deaths among working-age men from coronary and cardiovascular disease, along with deaths from unnatural causes, have doubled since 1990. As a result, the average lifespan of a male has dropped to 57.4 years, compared to 72 for women.

Health officials attribute these changes to factors stemming from the country's widespread economic, social and political upheaval, including a growing disparity in income, pervasive crime and corruption, crumbling social services, plunging living standards and apprehension about the future. Consequently, some demographers and health officials foresee a 21st century in which children and men in Russia are relatively scarce, and aging widows will make up much of the population. (Source: The Boston Globe.)