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

  • Brainerd, Elizabeth


    (Brandeis University)

  • Cutler, David M.


    (Harvard University)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1472.

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Length: 72 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2005, 19 (1), 107 - 130
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1472
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  1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Stillman, Steven & Thomas, Duncan, 2004. "The Effect of Economic Crises on Nutritional Status: Evidence from Russia," IZA Discussion Papers 1092, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Field, Mark G., 1995. "The health crisis in the former Soviet Union: A report from the 'post-war' zone," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(11), pages 1469-1478, December.
  4. Robert J. Flanagan, 1995. "Wage Structure in the Transition of the Czech Economy," IMF Working Papers 95/36, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Watson, Peggy, 1995. "Explaining rising mortality among men in Eastern Europe," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(7), pages 923-934, October.
  6. Elizabeth Brainerd & David M. Cutler, 2004. "Autopsy on an Empire: Understanding Mortality in Russia and the Former Soviet Union," NBER Working Papers 10868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ellman, Michael, 1994. "The Increase in Death and Disease under "Katastroika."," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 329-55, August.
  8. Brainerd, Elizabeth, 1998. "Winners and Losers in Russia's Economic Transition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1094-1116, December.
  9. Robert J. Flanagan, 1995. "Wage Structures in the Transition of the Czech Economy," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(4), pages 836-854, December.
  10. Jan Rutkowski, 1996. "High skills pay off: the changing wage structure during economic transition in Poland," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 4(1), pages 89-112, 05.
  11. Andrei Shleifer & Daniel Treisman, 2003. "A Normal Country," NBER Working Papers 10057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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