Partnership context of first births in Russia: the enduring significance of marriage
European Journal of Population, 38:1, 37–58 (2022)
While cohabitation and non-marital childbearing have been increasing in Russia since 1990, the share of marital first births that are conceived prior to marriage has changed very little since the Soviet era. The prior findings on the stability of trends in premarital conceptions in Russia have been contradictory and inconclusive. This study aims to extend the existing empirical evidence on premarital conceptions in Russia, and to contribute to the discussion on the persistence of marriage as the preferred partnership context for parenthood. We focus on births that occurred within the first two years of marriage, and compare the childbearing patterns of Russian women who married in different historical periods. For our investigation of fertility among marital cohorts who married during the Soviet era (1960-1991), we use individual-level data from the 1994 microcensus. For our examination of fertility among more recent marital cohorts (2000, 2011, and 2016), we draw on data from birth records in civil registers. We also use relevant complementary data sources. Our findings show that there has been a marked shift in the relationship between conception and marriage in Russia. Increasingly, conceptions have been occurring before marriage, and in the most recent marital cohorts, the level of premarital first conceptions has even surpassed the level of marital first conceptions. The average interval between conception and entry into marriage has also been lengthening. We describe this unique pattern of childbearing, and discuss some potential explanations for the ongoing association between marriage and childbearing in Russia.
Keywords: Russian Federation, first birth, first birth interval, marriage, premarital conceptions