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Streetwise Professor

October 27, 2008

Human Capital

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:55 pm

Those who follow Russia know that its dreams of becoming a colossus are built on demographic feet of clay. Nicholas Eberstadt has the details in today’s NYT.

Human capital is a far more important, enduring, and reliable basis for economic growth than oil and minerals. Death and disease certainly deplete a nation’s stock of human capital, but there are other interesting issues here as well. I have commented before on the presentism not just of Putin (whom I called “A Man in a Hurry” in a post some time back) but of Russians at large. I have also mentioned the emphasis on consumption as opposed to investment and saving. Now, the available data focus primarily on expenditures on consumption and saving, but people make all sorts of life choices that don’t really show up in the statistics that affect their stocks of human capital. I would conjecture that a consumption oriented culture is not focused on accumulating human capital.

The causation can go both ways, but there also has to be a connection between the demographic factors that Eberstadt depressingly documents and consumption, saving, and human capital investment choices. People–men in particular–who have a high risk of dying early, and a small chance of living well into retirement years, have a small incentive to save, or to invest in human capital. It must also be noted, though, that health and longevity are the result of choices as well. People choose to engage in unhealthy lifestyles, to smoke, to overeat, to imbibe too much vodka. Indeed, health is a form of human capital, where capital is conceived of broadly as anything that requires a sacrifice of consumption today and receive in return a stream of benefits (higher consumption) in the future–health is capital, and there is a choice component to health. People who make those life-shortening choices are deliberately opting not to accumulate human capital; they would prefer the immediate gratification of consuming those things, rather than living longer and consuming more in the future. Viewing demography as the product of a constellation of choices, some personal, some political, it is evident that Russians have overwhelmingly voted for the present over the future.

Seen this way, Russia’s demographic crisis and many of the more mundane choices of present over future that Russians make are of a piece. They are both symptoms of a tendency to discount the future very, very heavily. Why? That is a weighty question, certainly beyond easy analysis. It is effectively a matter of preferences, and economists typically take those as given. Someone more religious than I might attribute it to a spiritual deficit–but that only pushes the question back a step, to: Why is there a spiritual deficit? As someone historically and economically oriented, I am inclined to conjecture that the tendency to discount the future reflects (a) the historical experience of the Russian people, who have suffered cataclysm after cataclysm, and (b) the insecurity of property and life in a system that lacks a rule of law, has a weak civil society and institutions, and which is vulnerable to the predations of an overawing and virtually unlimited state.

But these are just conjectures, and given that we have only one data point and myriad potential competing explanations, no definitive answer is in prospect. It does seem to me, however, that the presentism of Russia and Russians, which is so evident in the decisions of both the powerful and the ordinary, is a central fact that anyone studying Russia, or charged with making policy towards it, or doing business with it, must always keep in mind. It likely contributes to aggressiveness and impulsiveness in government policy at home and abroad, and an incentive to deal aggressively and dishonestly in business (as the accumulation and protection of reputation is effectively an investment). It also tends to contribute to instability in political, business, and human relationships. And, perhaps more depressingly, it is self-reinforcing, an equilibrium outcome that is difficult to exit. So, in the end, when thinking about how Russia will evolve in the future, it is important to remember that Russians are focused on the present.

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17 Comments »

  1. Eberstadt is an ideologue at the think-tank infamous for its “objectivity”, the American Enterprise Institute. I’ve debunked much of his work in a 3-part series about Russian demographics at my blog (a summary can be read in the last one, here – http://darussophile.blogspot.com/2008/07/demographics-iii-faces-of-future.html). He doesn’t say anything at all new here that he hasn’t written before. I’ll make do with one particularly, grating “truthy” sentence.

    “With such a brutally high burden of premature mortality and such a radical foreshortening of working life, the cost-benefit calculus for higher education or additional training tilts against investments in knowledge and skills for the work force.”

    Which must explain why 25-34 year olds in Russia have the world’s highest levels of tertiary education attainment (http://oberon.sourceoecd.org/vl=5897660/cl=12/nw=1/rpsv/factbook/090103-g2.htm) and why post-1998 growth has overwhelmingly been due to productivity improvements (according to a World Bank report I can dig up if you really want me to).

    (It also totally doesn’t make case even from a non-Russophobic “intuitive” basis – it is easily observable that those with good university educations make much more money than those without them from their 20′s (i.e. very much a “present” time), and it also ignores the fact that as a rule people don’t believe the mortality statistics apply to them personally (as regards pensions). On the topic of which, AFAIK the situation with them in Russia is far less serious than Social Security’s unfunded multi-trillion future liabilities… Furthermore, Russia’s high mortality rates only become statistically significant for men in the 50′s and 60′s, when workers start becoming less productive anyway, and the bonus is that this improves its future dependency ratio – which is not the case for Western Europe or Japan.)

    Conjecture and imagined stereotypes are one thing, reality is another. Sucks doesn’t it?

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 27, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  2. I read your blog. You write:

    “In practice it’s likely the government will intensify its efforts to contain and suppress the alcohol epidemic and other typical, negative Russian lifestyle choices (smoking, diets high in animal fats and glycemic loads, lack of exercise, etc).”

    The government has been trying for close two two decades. Do you remember how Gorbachev sought to reduce alcohol consumption. This led to sugar shortages as Russians increased their production of “samagon” ;) And, there are wonderful Soviet propaganda posters against drinking that pre-date even Brezhnev. Why will the Russian government succeed now after so many failed efforts?

    You also write: “The fertility rate has soared since 2006 and will likely surpass 1.5 this year. While it has been boosted (or rather, brought forward) by the recent introduction of generous maternity benefits, I believe this is a sustainable trend.”

    The facts are correct, but I would argue that the analysis is wrong. Yes, the number of births is going up, but this is in large part due to a Russian equivalent of an “echo” generation. There was a bit of population boom at the ends of the 1970s until the collapse of births in the early 1990s. There is a bit of an increase now as this “echo” generation is not having children, but once this echo generation passes, you will see a massive drop in the number of births in Russia.

    The problem with Russian demographics was best summarized by a Russian colleague of mine: Russia has European birth rates and African mortality rates. This is not likely to change any time soon, no matter how many pretty colored charts you draw. If anything, it will get worse as Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing and god forbid should drug-resistant TB become epidemic in turn.

    Comment by Michel — October 27, 2008 @ 11:03 pm

  3. I started writing a proper response, but then realized there was no point. I have already mentioned and explained all that you say about the echo generation. My “pretty graphs” are in fact rigorous models that by definition take all that into account and you will notice that after 2015 to 2030 the crude birth rate falls sharply.

    My reasons for positing significant decreases in mortality are given in Part 2, to which there is a link in the Conclusions. I don’t feel like repeating myself.

    HIV/AIDS is growing cumulatively but the newly infected category peaked back in 2001 and the vast majority of sufferers are now getting anti-retroviral treatment (indeed, the number of AIDS-related deaths peaked in 2006). So I’m not overly worried about it.

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 27, 2008 @ 11:41 pm

  4. This according to the World Health Organization: “The number of people officially registered with HIV/AIDS in the Russian Federation has increased 100-fold in nine years, from 3623 cases on 31 March 1997 to 369 187 in December 2006.” The operative word here is “officially registered.” As with everything else in Russia (alcoholics, drug addicts, etc…) you can take the “officially registered” figure and double or triple that number to get somewhere close to the real number. Source: http://www.euro.who.int/aids/ctryinfo/overview/20060118_36.

    This from one academic source, the Center for Health Policy (CHP) and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research (PCOR) at Stanford: “Although HIV/AIDS is a relatively new problem for Russia – the epidemic began to take hold there just 10 years ago – today the country has one of the fastest-growing HIV/AIDS populations in the world. While official registered figures show 311,400 HIV cases to date, international experts believe the actual number is closer to 1 million. Until recently, the majority of cases have been concentrated among injection drug users. However, the increasing number of cases among women, along with infections transmitted heterosexually and from mother to child, indicate that the epidemic is shifting from high-risk groups to the general population.” (see “Russia must treat drug users to contain HIV/AIDS epidemic, research shows” http://healthpolicy.stanford.edu/news/russia_must_treat_drug_users_to_contain_hivaids_epidemic_research_shows_20050718/).

    You may not be overly worried about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia, but this perspective is not shared by many experts in the field of HIV/AIDS research.

    Comment by Michel — October 28, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  5. One final comment. Paul Goble has a thoughtful post today on the demographic challenges facing Russia. He cites Trud and a piece they have entitled “Rossiane [i.e. all those living in Russia ethnic Russians and otherwise] dont want to live longer” (http://www.trud.ru/issue/article.php?id=200810242010802)

    One excerpt:

    “Эксперты не исключают влияние кризиса на рождаемость. Однако говорят, что оно не будет определяющим.
    - Рост рождаемости, который мы наблюдали в последние годы, не связан с экономическими стимулами, – поясняет эксперт Открытого института здоровья Кирилл Данишевский. – Просто пришло время рожать девочкам поколения беби-бума 80-Ñ… годов. И тридцатилетним женщинам, которые отложили рождение первого ребенка в непростые 90-е годы.

    Со следующего года эти тенденции начнут сдуваться.”

    This statement supports what I wrote yesterday. Trud notes that was a slight upward tick in birth rates from 1.17 children per woman to 1.4 in recent years, but this is due to the women of the 80s “baby boom” entering their childbearing years. These numbers will fall, once the “baby bust” of the 90s comes of age.

    This article ends on a pessimistic theme in that Russians simply don’t have the motivation to live.

    Comment by Michel — October 28, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  6. Michel,

    Considering that every year about 20-25mn people are tested for AIDS in Russia, I’d say the statistics are pretty reliable. In any case practically all pregnant women are tested and the rates of infection amongst them remain low, having peaked at around 120 / 100,000 tested in 2002. Source – http://data.unaids.org/pub/Report/2008/russia_2008_country_progress_report_en.pdf

    If you notice all the “alarmist” papers about AIDS in Russia are from 2005 or earlier – surely if there was such a catastrophic increase in it, then the Western media would be swamped by them today?

    “This statement supports what I wrote yesterday. Trud notes that was a slight upward tick in birth rates from 1.17 children per woman to 1.4 in recent years, but this is due to the women of the 80s “baby boom” entering their childbearing years.”

    This reveals your utter incomprehension of basic demography. The fact that the 80′s boom have entered childbearing age will influence only crude birth rates, not total fertility rates (the TFR is independent of the age pyramid structure, and depends only on age-specific birth rates (and to a small extent, at least in developed countries, on mortality rates amongst women lower than and of childbearing age)).

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 28, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  7. “and to a small extent, at least in developed countries, on mortality rates amongst women lower than and of childbearing age”

    Correction – in developing countries (i.e. where early-age mortality amongst women is statistically significant).

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 28, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  8. [...] was quite critical of Nicholas Eberstadt’s objectivity in one of his comments on Human Capital. DR has a detailed rebuttal to demographic doomsaying at his blog, and I encourage those [...]

    Pingback by Streetwise Professor » Nick Eberstadt is Not a Long Wolf* — October 28, 2008 @ 7:24 pm

  9. Well, going from 1.17 to 1.4 is an improvement, but still far behind the 2.1 to replace the population. Nonetheless, the number of children being born any given year is influenced by two factors: how many children a woman is likely to have, and how many women there are that can have a child. As there is a larger number of women now having children (the 80s generation) than there will be in once the 90s generation comes to age, you will have a case where the demographics of children being born will go from bad to worse, and unless Russia can find some miraculous way of weaning Russians from vodka (or worse forms of alcohol), mortality rates are not likely to improve any time soon.

    I will get back to you with regards to the HIV/AIDS statistics. If 2005 isn’t good enough for you, I will dig up the latest stats LOL. I have an evening planned with my wife, so it may have to wait until tomorrow morning.

    Comment by Michel — October 28, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  10. Dear Russophile,

    You wanted more recent information, so I have dug up some more recent information: a May 15, 2007 Reuters article entitled “Russia warns of AIDS epidemic, 1.3 mln with HIV” that was based on an interview with Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia’s federal AIDS centre. If you read the excerpt below, you will note a few things:

    1. Russia’s registered HIV/AIDS cases are but a fraction of the total number of HIV/AIDS case as not all HIV/AIDS cases have been identified and registered by the state;
    2. There is an increase in the rate of the spread of the epidemic and the increasing number of women acquiring the disease through heterosexual sex is extremely worrisome;
    2. Infection is highest in intravenous drug users (up to 65% infection rates), but larger numbers of women are being infected through heterosexual sex;
    3. In some cities, up to 1 in 10 men are thought to have been infected with HIV/AIDS which means that in some regions of Russia the epidemic is reaching levels seen only in the worst hit areas of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa.
    4. The Russian State, even though it was awash in petrodollars, was spending very little on prevention: a paltry 200 million roubles ($7.75 million) was budgeted in 2007 for prevention to educate the populations and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS that was clearly becoming epidemic.

    This Reuters article contradicts your argument that the spread of HIV/AIDS has already peaked and addresses the statement “surely if there was such a catastrophic increase in it, then the Western media would be swamped by them today?” I am providing an article from last year citing the main Russian expert on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Russia. This data “reveals your utter incomprehension” on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Russia ;) [Hey, if you will resort to ad hominem comments, it is only fair that I do to ;)]

    The excerpt as promised:

    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s AIDS epidemic is worsening with as many as 1.3 million people infected with HIV as the virus spreads further into the heterosexual population, Russia’s top AIDS specialist said on Tuesday.

    Russia has registered 402,000 people with HIV, of whom 17,000 have died, but the real figure is much higher, said Vadim Pokrovsky, head of Russia’s federal AIDS centre.

    “Not only is the number of Russians infected with HIV rising but there is an increase in the rate at which the epidemic is spreading, so a rise in the number of newly infected,” Pokrovsky told reporters.

    “We have an estimate of up to 1.2 million to 1.3 million infected with HIV,” he said, adding that the number of those registered as infected was rising by 8 to 10 percent a year.

    The United Nations estimates 65 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and that 25 million people have been killed by AIDS since it was first recognized in 1981.

    AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

    Most of those infected with HIV are unaware they are carrying the virus, according to the UN.

    “ONE IN TEN MALES”

    Pokrovsky said HIV was high among Russia’s intravenous drug users but that many of those newly infected were not needle users. And he warned that the virus was spreading fast into the heterosexual population.

    Women made up 44 percent of 39,589 registered new infections last year, he said adding that in some cities one in ten Russian males were infected with HIV.

    “Evidence of the strengthening heterosexual HIV infection is the increase in the number of women among those newly registered with HIV,” Pokrovsky said.

    “On average for the country, one out of every fifty males is infected with HIV but in some cities it is one in ten,” he said.

    Russia’s northern city of St Petersburg was worst affected followed by Sverdlovsk region, greater Moscow, Samara region and Moscow, though Pokrovsky said figures for Moscow were probably much higher than the data indicated.

    Pokrovsky said overall funding for fighting AIDS in Russia was rising but that just 200 million roubles ($7.75 million) would be spent on prevention in 2007 out of a total budget of 5.3 billion roubles ($205.4 million).

    “The financing is sharply rising,” he said. “There is now a lot of money, but the spending is not done entirely properly.”

    “A very small amount of that money…is directed to preventing the further spread of the epidemic; most of it is being used for treatment. That is good but you need prevention too,” he said.

    Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSL1546187520070515?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

    Comment by Michel — October 29, 2008 @ 8:43 am

  11. Vadim Pokrovsky is well-known as an alarmist. He believed 0.8k were infected in 2000 (http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/2001/0122/cover_plagues.html) and in 2002 predicted it would rise to 3-5mn in “a few years” (http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2002-11/a-2002-11-27-8-Looming.cfm) and claims at least 7mn in 2015-20. And he’s saying that TODAY the real figure is 1.2-1.3mn in 2008.

    In fact there have been a lot of false predictions, and Pokrovsky fits into the pattern.

    http://www.uel.ac.uk/ihhd/programmes/documents/FindingsEnglish011206.PDF (2006)

    “To show the spread of these projections more clearly a graph of prevalence over time showing estimates of adult prevalence (15-49) for each year since the start of the epidemic up to 2003 are plotted in Figure 5. After 2003 the spread of projections is shown and the projections are also shown individually.

    The NIC projections for 2010 are for adult HIV prevalences of 7.00% in the low scenario and 11.19% in the high scenario, corresponding to 5 and 8 million cases respectively. These projections are higher than the World Bank projections for the same year, which are for between 3.21% and 7.26% prevalence (or between 2.3 and 5.3 million cases respectively). The World Bank (16) projections can be seen more clearly and in terms of the numbers of HIV cases projected in Figure 6. These projections are of a similar magnitude to Eberstadt’s. The World Bank’s estimate for 2020 is slightly higher than Eberstadt’s middle projection for 2025 (14.5 million cases and 13 million cases respectively). ”

    “The key difference between the lower prevalence projections and the very high projections reported in (14), (15) and (16) is the assumption about future heterosexual transmission. The higher projections assume that the epidemic will be essentially heterosexual and will follow the trends observed in Sub-Saharan Africa. This seems unrealistic based on current knowledge of the situation in Russia, where the epidemic is still predominantly concentrated in injecting drug users. However, the lack of sexual behaviour surveys means that it is very difficult to make projections about risk behaviour (both present and future) and the possibility of the epidemic becoming generalised. Recent experiences in Western Europe show clearly how infection slowly seeps out of the high risk groups into the general population over time scales of a few decades.”

    Not that I blame him – his main task is lobbying for more funding and alarmism works wonders – but it does no credit no credit to professional researchers like Eberstadt or those at the World Bank.

    As for the ad hominem, sometimes they really are deserved. Your comment implied a lack of understanding of the difference between crude birth rates and TFR, which indeed “reveals an utter incomprehension” of demography. The same cannot be said of myself in relation to AIDS in Russia, where I have provided detailed, updated facts on the epidemic, as opposed to the flawed models (positing an African-style heterosexual epidemic in Russia, an industrial country with very different social patterns) and alarmism of the Eberstadts and Pokrovsky’s of the world.

    BTW, one final comment. The TFR was 1.4 in 2007. This year, according to preliminary Rosstat data, it will be a bit above 1.5.

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 30, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  12. “He believed 0.8k were infected in 2000″ – Correction, I mean 0.8mn (i.e. official figures were 80,000 and “experts” believed the figure was ten times higher).

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 30, 2008 @ 2:13 am

  13. Let us take apart the citation that you provide to make your case:

    “The key difference between the lower prevalence projections and the very high projections reported in (14), (15) and (16) is the assumption about future heterosexual transmission. The higher projections assume that the epidemic will be essentially heterosexual and will follow the trends observed in Sub-Saharan Africa. This seems unrealistic based on current knowledge of the situation in Russia, where the epidemic is still predominantly concentrated in injecting drug users.”

    Yet, the official data in Russia contradicts this last statement. According to HIV Russia, in 2000 virtually all the new known cases of HIV infection were thought to be transmitted by intravenous drug use (see this graph:http://hivrussia.ru/img/stat_3.gif). However, since then, the proportion of new cases that are thought to have been transmitted have grown substantially to roughly one-third of all cases. This evidence contradicts the assumptions made by the researchers you are citing.

    “However, the lack of sexual behaviour surveys means that it is very difficult to make projections about risk behaviour (both present and future) and the possibility of the epidemic becoming generalised. Recent experiences in Western Europe show clearly how infection slowly seeps out of the high risk groups into the general population over time scales of a few decades.”

    Well, based on the data from Russian Government sources, in Russia it is only taking a few years for the infection to seep out of the high risk groups into the general population.

    Here is some information gleaned from UNAIDS report “AIDS epidemic update 2007 Regional Summaries – 16 April 2008″ (source http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/EpiUpdate/EpiUpdArchive/2007/). I will be citing from the Eastern Europe and Central Asia regional summary that can be downloaded as a PDF.

    Intravenous drug users: there are between 1.5 and 3 million intravenous drug users in Russia. The report highlights how only a minority of intravenous drug users use sterile equipment. As a consequence, this means that quite likely between 1 and 2 million of these intravenous drug users will be infected unless drastic steps are taken to help these users either address their addiction or at the very least ensure that they use clean and sterile needles and syringes.

    Concentration of HIV/AIDS in 10 major cities and regions: the report highlights that 59% of HIV/AIDS cases are located in 10 major cities/regions.

    Heterosexual sex: The report notes that “Of the newly registered HIV cases in 2006 where the mode of transmission was known, two thirds (66%) were due to injecting drug use and
    about one third (32%) to unprotected heterosexual intercourse (Ladnaya, 2007). The latter
    proportion, though, has been increasing steadily since the late 1990s, especially in areas with
    comparatively mature epidemics. In Orenburg, for example, 64% of newly registered HIV cases
    in 2006 were attributed to sexual intercourse (Zebzeeva, 2007).” Again, signs that HIV/AIDS is spreading beyond intravenous drug users into the general populace, notably in those 10 cities where HIV/AIDS is concentrated.

    How will the epidemic spread? One simple word: sex. Intravenous drug users do not only have sex with other intravenous drug users. According to the UNAIDS 2007 report: “In Barnaul, Moscow and Volgograd, between one half and two thirds of injecting drug users participating in studies had had more than two sexual partners in the previous 12 months. Between one half and three quarters of them had not consistently used condoms with non-paying sexual partners in the previous month. Sex between persons who inject drugs and those who do not is common, which underlines the possibility of HIV transmission from injecting drug users to the wider population
    (DfID, 2006).”

    If there is a case for optimism, it is that some research indicates increasing condom use among younger Russians (see page 5) but there is also evidence that Russians are having sex much earlier and young teens are not having protected sex: “On average, 14–20-year-olds began having sex before their 16th birthday; whereas, on average, 30–40-year-olds had not had sex until they were 18 years old. In addition, almost two thirds (63%) of sexually active 14–20-year-olds said
    they had not used a condom the last time they had sex (Vannappagari & Ryder, 2004).”

    In other words, a lost still has to be done to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS and promote safe sex. Without that, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Russia will only grow.

    One final statistic: the official rates continue to grow. In June 2008 there were 433,827 registered HIV/AIDS cases as compared to 403,100 in October 2007 (source hivrussia.ru). And, as noted, the official registered cases represent a third or less of all the potential cases in Russia.

    Comment by Michel — October 30, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  14. Also, I have to comment on what you said: “As for the ad hominem, sometimes they really are deserved. Your comment implied a lack of understanding…”

    In rereading my original post, I do agree that given that I was dealing with a pedant, I should have phrased it more specifically. I should have specified that even though the birth rate was up slightly AND that Russia’s “boom” generation was entering into their childbearing years that this was driving up the number of births in Russia. Mea culpa. However, the uptick in the birth rate per woman to 1.4 or 1.5 is still far below the replacement rate and even if you have a somewhat higher birth rate per women, this will not be enough to compensate for the fact that you will have a much, much smaller cohort of women that can potentially have children as the 1990s baby bust generation comes of age and the 1980s generation is no longer having children.

    I agree, however, that there may be a miraculous turn around with women having 2 and 3 children on average. However, the uptick that you report won’t be enough to counter the looming drop that is likely given present demographic reality in Russia, and this is why Russian demographers are generally quite pessimistic in their outlook.

    Comment by Michel — October 30, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  15. “Yet, the official data in Russia contradicts this last statement. According to HIV Russia, in 2000 virtually all the new known cases of HIV infection were thought to be transmitted by intravenous drug use (see this graph:http://hivrussia.ru/img/stat_3.gif). However, since then, the proportion of new cases that are thought to have been transmitted have grown substantially to roughly one-third of all cases. This evidence contradicts the assumptions made by the researchers you are citing.”

    1. In Africa 90%+ of infections are transmitted sexually. That there is a degree of “leakage” from IDU’s to the “general” population is not surprising (they do sometimes have girlfriends), as pointed out. However, spread from then on is constrained by several factors which are present in Russia and most other industrialized countries, but not as much in Africa, namely, greater immune resistance due to adequate caloric intake and modern medicines, social unacceptability of having many partners, and low education on the problem and contraceptive usage.

    As a matter of fact there’s actually not that much understanding of why HIV is so prevalent in Africa – after all, there are lots of other poor and malnourished placed which haven’t had epidemics (so positing African patterns in Russia is all the more illogical). One interesting theory can be read here – http://www.fumento.com/disease/aids2005.html.

    2. But the main point is the scale of the epidemic. As I pointed out, five years ago these guys were predicting millions of HIV cases in Russia by 2010. Yet as of 2008 we only have 1.2mn-1.3mn (and that’s according to Pokrovsky), and increasing at 10% per annum – so it’s quite obvious that those predictions will not be fulfilled. To me the most important point is that HIV infection amongst pregnant women peaked in 2002, at a low level. Hence, the original assumption behind the “doomer” models are wrong.

    ————

    “In rereading my original post, I do agree that given that I was dealing with a pedant, I should have phrased it more specifically.”

    Insisting on proper usage of terms is not pedantic. Otherwise stuff gets confusing very quickly and we might as well refrain from discussing anything more cerebral than the weather and how was your day.

    “I agree, however, that there may be a miraculous turn around with women having 2 and 3 children on average. However, the uptick that you report won’t be enough to counter the looming drop that is likely given present demographic reality in Russia, and this is why Russian demographers are generally quite pessimistic in their outlook.”

    According to my model, even if the TFR rises from 1.4 now to 1.7 in 2015, and then declines to 1.3 by 2050 (all of this linearly); and assuming immigration remains at 100,000 year (well below the current 300,000) and that mortality rates stay constant relative to extrapolated Swedish MR’s (which, again, is also not backed up by recent trends, which are better), even then the population will ONLY decline to 119mn by 2050.

    And my model by extrapolating from today’s population structure implicitly takes into account the “looming drop” in women of child-bearing age which will occur in 2015-2030.

    Comment by Da Russophile — October 30, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  16. Well, the Russian state will be facing a number of challenges if the population “ONLY” declines to 119 by 2050. This is because under your scenario, the population will not only decline, it will also age. Both the decline and the aging of the population will pose a number of challenges to the Russian economy, the Russian military, Russian pensions, etc….

    Your model, however is built on a number of assumptions:

    1. Migration: which will likely decline if Russia faces economic difficulties as migrants will either return home or not go to Russia;
    2. Health: I would say that you are being unduly optimistic if you expect the health of Russians to improve any time soon.

    Nonetheless, even your “optimistic” scenario leaves Russia’s population smaller and older. Hardly the stuff of a great and rising power ;)

    Also, you write: “several factors which are present in Russia and most other industrialized countries, but not as much in Africa, namely, … social unacceptability of having many partners.” Perhaps it is socially unacceptable, but it is still a widespread phenomenon. Also, condom use is still far from the norm in Russia.

    I have some more comments to make, but I have to do a bit of work first.

    Comment by Michel — October 30, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  17. Dear Russophile,

    A few comments and observations as to what you have written.

    You wrote: “But the main point is the scale of the epidemic. As I pointed out, five years ago these guys were predicting millions of HIV cases in Russia by 2010.”

    Well, we are still not in 2010, but I will concur that the most pessimistic projections have not played out yet. Does not mean they will not, simply that it might take a bit longer than originally predicted.

    You wrote: “Yet as of 2008 we only have 1.2mn-1.3mn (and that’s according to Pokrovsky), and increasing at 10% per annum – so it’s quite obvious that those predictions will not be fulfilled.”

    They may be fulfilled, but not necessarily as quickly as predicted. The number of registered HIV/AIDS cases almost doubled between 2002 and 2008: 227,502 to 433,827 registered cases. With a 10% increase per annum, you risk having the number of registered cases grow to 1,000,000 or so within a decade (with another 2 or 3 million infected and not yet registered). Yes, this can be curtailed with a strong prevention program, but this will take a lot of money and resources, money and resources that have yet to be budgeted for by the state.

    Your wrote: “To me the most important point is that HIV infection amongst pregnant women peaked in 2002, at a low level. Hence, the original assumption behind the “doomer” models are wrong.”

    How exactly did they peak? The number of registered children born HIV infected from HIV-infected mothers went from 85 in 2002 according to official Russian government stats to 1,427 in 2008. If this is what you call “peaking” I would like to see how you define “increasing”. Who exactly are giving birth to these HIV-infected babies?

    Comment by Michel — October 30, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

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