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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Family Size

Family size and composition depended mainly on the place of residence--urban or rural--and ethnic group. The size and composition of such families was also influenced by housing and income limitations, pensions, and female employment outside the home. The typical urban family consisted of a married couple, two children, and, in about 20 percent of the cases, one of the grandmothers, whose assistance in raising the children and in housekeeping was important in the large majority of families having two wage earners. Rural families generally had more children than urban families and often supported three generations under one roof. Families in Central Asia and the Caucasus tended to have more children than families elsewhere in the Soviet Union and included grandparents in the family structure. In general, the average family size has followed that of other industrialized countries, with higher income families having both fewer children and a lower rate of infant mortality. From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, the number of families with more than one child decreased by about 50 percent and in 1988 totaled 1.9 million. About 75 percent of the families with more than one child lived in the southern regions of the country, half of them in Central Asia. In the Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Moldavian, Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian republics, families with one and two children constituted more than 90 percent of all families, whereas in Central Asia those with three or more children ranged from 14 percent in the Kirgiz Republic to 31 percent in the Tadzhik Republic. Surveys suggested that most parents would have had more children if they had had more living space.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the government promoted family planning in order to slow the growth of the Central Asian indigenous populations. Local opposition to this policy surfaced especially in the Uzbek and Tadzhik republics. In general, however, the government continued publicly to honor mothers of large families. Women received the Motherhood Medal, Second Class, for their fifth live birth and the Heroine Mother medal for their tenth. Most of these awards went to women in Central Asia and the Caucasus (see table 21, Appendix A).

Data as of May 1989