Volume 45 - Article 22 | Pages 727–768  

The Demographic Echo of War and educational attainment in Soviet Russia

By Gordey Yastrebov


Background: Research on Western countries has shown that birth cohort size is negatively related to educational attainment. It has offered complementary interpretations of this association – optimal schooling choices versus cohort overcrowding effects – that are difficult to resolve empirically.

Objective: To investigate birth cohort size effects on educational attainment taking shape primarily in the context of a socialist society that does not lend itself well to “optimal schooling” interpretations.

Methods: I exploit birth cohort size variation generated by the Second World War, a phenomenon known as the Demographic War Echo. Using the Education and Employment Survey for Russia and growth curve modeling, I analyze educational trajectories between ages 18 and 35 among Russian men and women born 1950–1987.

Results: Larger cohorts attained less schooling and advanced more slowly in their educational careers. They could partly make up for the disadvantage by studying longer and retreating to part-time education. The disadvantage was larger for women because for men it was partly compensated through a decreased probability of military conscription.

Conclusions: Larger birth cohort size disadvantaged young Russians in the process of educational attainment. Given the context, this can be attributed entirely to cohort overcrowding effects.

Contribution: This is the first examination of birth cohort size effects on educational attainment in a state socialist context. It is also the first to model these effects on educational trajectories rather than simply attainment and to explore the moderating role of part-time education.

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