Autopsy on an Empire: Understanding Mortality in Russia and the Former Soviet Union

Posted: 6 Oct 2005

See all articles by Elizabeth Brainerd

Elizabeth Brainerd

Brandeis University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

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Abstract

Male life expectancy at birth fell by over six years in Russia between 1989 and 1994. Many other countries of the former Soviet Union saw similar declines, and female life expectancy fell as well. Using cross-country and Russian household survey data, we assess six possible explanations for this upsurge in mortality. Most find little support in the data: the deterioration of the health care system, changes in diet and obesity, and material deprivation fail to explain the increase in mortality rates. The two factors that do appear to be important are alcohol consumption, especially as it relates to external causes of death (homicide, suicide, and accidents) and stress associated with a poor outlook for the future. However, a large residual remains to be explained.

JEL Classification: I1, P0

Suggested Citation

Brainerd, Elizabeth and Cutler, David M., Autopsy on an Empire: Understanding Mortality in Russia and the Former Soviet Union. Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 107-130, Winter 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=815644

Elizabeth Brainerd (Contact Author)

Brandeis University - Department of Economics ( email )

Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center, Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-5216 (Phone)
617-495-8570 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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617-868-3900 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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