Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How should seniors decide which of the free auto insurance quotes represent the best value?

Recently the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety suggested that, as the population aged, there would be a steady increase in claims. In fact, the number of claims by drivers aged 75 and over has been falling. This has come as a relief to the families of seniors. No one wants to play the heavy and take the keys of the vehicle away from a parent or grandparent. Indeed, as more local shops have gone out of business in the bad economic times, being able to drive to malls and shopping centers has become even more important.
So what can families do to protect their seniors and get the lowest possible insurance rates. The answer comes in several stages. The first is health. The more active seniors stay the better. Both in ordinary life and specifically for driving, there are a number of programs run by doctors and occupational therapists to modify vehicles to make them safer and easier to drive. There are also defensive driving courses approved by insurers. The combination of modifications to the vehicle and additional tuition offers discounts. Get as many free auto insurance quotes as possible to view the range of rates on conventional plans.
Learn about the pay-as-you-go policies. The idea is that with proof of low milage at off-peak times, the premium rates are heavily discounted. Your vehicle is fit with technology or adapting the manufacturer's onboard computers to communicate with the insurers. If yo also confirm your safer driving practices, you can get even lower rates.
Use the access to free auto insurance quotes to get as much information as possible as to what options are available in your state. Once you have the right policy in place, it's just a case of driving safely and avoiding an accident. Even if this means driving more slowly and keeping to the routes you know the best, this is the best way to keep you insured at the lowest possible rates for as long as possible.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Macroeconomic Resource - Variant Perception's Trusted Sources

by Claus Vistesen:   London

I normally do not mix business and pleasure but in this case they are such a close match that I think an exception is warranted. The small independent macro research firm I work for is consequently in the process of restructuring its website and is opening up its Trusted Sources which was previously restricted to clients. VP Trusted Sources is a collection of content providers and their content that we deem to offer high quality and value adding financial and macroeconomic analysis worthy our own, investors' and other researchers' time.
Obviously, skilled and hardened readers of econ blogs would point out that the last thing the internet needs is another information aggregator. I would agree, and even in the world of economics and finance there are already considerable aggregators and umbrella sites which collects and gathers information.
However, and biased as I naturally am, I would argue that the VP Trusted Sources blows most of the other"passive" information aggregators in the financial industry away. I would point to three reasons for this.
1. We provide macroeconomic and financial news in its most pure format and if you are a consumer of such information you will be extraordinarily well served. This is high powered macroeconomic news, from one passionate macroeconomic researcher to another.
2. The VP Trusted Sources is essentially a custom made/all inclusive macroeconomic RSS reader. You don't need to create one; we have done it for you.
3. Its versatility. the VP Trusted Sources hub can be used either as the equivalent of a financial/economic Arts and Letters Daily or as a fast and efficient way to learn about a given topic.
I would particularly emphasize the balance between blogs, news and bank/investor research (1) which means that the VP Trusted Sources becomes a potentially very valuable gateway for information. You will also note that each entry (referring back to an original article) has both primary and secondary tags. I dare you to do research on a specific/generic topic where the VP Trusted Sources cannot lead you to instant and valuable information which will make your life easier.
Well, I think that this must be enough self-promotion for one day. Since it is free I encourage you to have a look and if you don't like it, feel free not to return. If you do, tell all your macro friends and fellow macro geeks about it.
(1) - Obviously some links will lead to walled content as some providers may not give free access to their content, but the vast majority of links goes to free resources.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bianna Golodryga Goes Inside the Container Store

As one of the nation's most visible and highly-respected financial reporters, Bianna Golodryga has done more than a little reporting on the ups and downs of Wall Street-in fact, she even covered the World Economic Forum when it was held in Switzerland. But she's no stranger to more street-level financial reporting; in fact, for an ABC News series called "Secrets of America's Favorite Stores," Bianna Golodryga went behind-the-scenes of some of the most popular retail stores in the country, including The Container Store.
What may seem like a niche business is in fact thriving, reported Bianna Golodryga; the chain is especially successful in selling organizational tools for closets, something that has become something of a trademark for The Container Store. Bianna Golodryga spoke with some of the chain's leading executives and uncovered some of the secrets of what makes them so prosperous.
One of the most major components, she found, is in the scripted dialogue that store associates use to engage customers. Bianna Golodryga reported that Container Store employees are discouraged from using more traditional lines like "May I help you?"-instead, they try to engage the customer on a deeper level, something that The Container Store executives believe strengthens their sales.
Indeed, Bianna Golodryga discovered that a big part of what sets the company apart is the emphasis they place on employee training. Associates at The Container Store are trained for some 240 hours, compared to the typical 12 of other retail stores.
Bianna Golodryga has filed similar reports retail chains including Costco and The Gap, just one example of what makes her an invaluable and integral member of the ABC News team. After studying theater arts and acting at Houston's prestigious High School for Performing and Visual Arts-the same school attended by Beyonce-- Bianna Golodryga moved into finance when she was in college, and enjoyed a brief career in that field before ultimately moving into television. She began her career in journalism as a producer for the CNBC network, having been inspired by the financial reporting style of Maria Bartiromo.
Her work with that network quickly drew praise from across the industry, and got the attention of ABC News. She was recruited by that network and immediately became a favorite on-air journalist, covering economic and business affairs for a variety of ABC's news programs. She has co-anchored the weekend edition of Good Morning America ever since Kate Snow left the program in May 2010.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Eight Probable Economic Trends in 2011

The year 2011 is one of immense economic and social change, as the shift in economic power continues to move east. What are the eight probable economic trends for 2011?
1. Renewed Turmoil in Our Banking Sectors
Some banks still remain overexposed to potential downturns in our stock markets. This has been created by holding onto vast amounts of "investments" in derivatives, rather than previously passing on all this potential toxic debt to our governments. If there is a major crisis in Korea, or a sudden natural disaster- then this exposure could eventually led to further bank bailouts.
2. A European Backlash Against Austerity
Deep austerity measures in the eurozone, are seen by many as a necessary need, but at the same time perceived as being too unbalanced and unfair. This belief could lead to more demonstrations, and the prospect of any number of European countries defaulting on their debts- the euro could still be saved, but the cost may result in an economically weakened Europe.
3. Closer ties between China, India and Russia
At the end of 2010, Russia and China agreed to trade energy and goods in their local currencies, abandoning the use of the US dollar. India also signed similar agreements, with both China, and Russia, shortly after this historic trade pact.
Signs are that all three countries could effectively continue economic expansion, and at the same time hail the start of a new renminbi, rupee, and ruble trade zone.
4. Further Growth in the Luxury Market
Despite a recession, sales of private aircraft, vacations in luxury resorts and sales of high end luxury brands continue to grow. New chic apartment hotels in Paris and the growth of luxury travel are signs that the global economy is improving.
5. Mixed Results for the US Dollar
A weakened US dollar still remains the international currency of debt and trade. this allows the Federal Reserve more leeway in printing dollars to flow into the economy.
This simple fact keeps the dollar strong, despite high national debt levels, and lack of business induced growth. Greenback values may still continue to decline, but should remain stable against some currencies, because so many nations hold vast reserves in the greenback. Look for further declines in the US dollar value in 2011.
6. Growth in China, East Asia and the Developing World
Brazil, China, East Asia, India, and Russia continue to register economic growth, whilst continued global de-coupling from Europe and the United States, expands as these nations improve trade with African, and South American countries.
7. Renewed Interest in Alternative Energies
Despite the rhetoric about a 'Green Energy revolution," in the developed world, 2011 could become the year- real interest through necessity, replaces forgotten promises.
This change may be brought about because of the increased cost of fossil based resources and the need to create cheap energy- as a declining energy poor United States & Europe have less to spend on these traditional resources.
8. The Rise of Cloud Computing
Austerity and cost cutting could create the need for large Corporations in the developed world to trim costs by simply locally outsourcing its IT work to outside companies, which effectively take over the billing and payroll management of a corporation, moving it online.
Estimates on this changeover by the EMU (European Monetary Union), state that billions could be saved, whilst over half a million new jobs are created.
One drawback could be that these global companies may decide simply to relocate this work to the East, rather than inside Europe or the USA. Creating new jobs, but not in the countries where their headquarters are located.
2011 could be a year of turmoil, continued economic growth and increased austerity. As our societies are growing towards a truly global economy, the unforeseen consequences of these effects are both renewed wealth creation and increasing poverty. Where this eventually leads depends solely on how developed economies evolve during this change, and whether this is acceptable inside the homes of those adversely affected by a changing global economy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Self Improvement Tips For Achieving Success

The majority of the people in the world are struggling with the effects of the recent global economic downturn. These effects have manifested themselves in the form of financial problems. The inherent problems created by the recent global economic downturn when combined with the fact that the future is not encouraging have resulted in many people struggling to succeed in life. However, the reason why people are struggling is not the fact that the world is stopping them. It is instead the fact that they need to improve themselves to succeed in difficult environment.

A look at world history shows that a volatile environment of this type is good for the people who know how to take advantage of it. Even in the Great Depression, there were people who managed to find a lot of success. Therefore, if you have been struggling to succeed since the global economic downturn started, then you need to realize that the solution lies inside you. Here are some tips that would help you realize your realize your own potential.

Change your Attitude by not complaining.

The first thing you need to do to succeed in such an environment is to stop complaining. Complaining is nothing but a way to find a reason to not strive more. In other words, the more you complain, the less likely you would be to decide to break the trend. It is easy for any person to find some external reason for his lack of success. However, unless the problem is realized the solution would never be found.

Therefore, you should stop complaining and focus instead on finding solutions to the existing problems. As you shift from focusing on the problem to trying to find the solution, you would start considering multiple solutions. It is likely that one of the many solutions you come up with would work out for you. Regardless of whether your solution is to move to prosperous countries like India or just work harder at work, you will find it.

Avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

While you make your calculations and come up with certain ideas to succeed, you would also need to take the potential of failure into account. This is important because sometimes chance also plays a role in whether you are able to succeed or not. Therefore, you need to find a way to work around chance. In other words, you have to put chance as a variable in your equation as well.

The best way to counter the possibility of some coincidence ruining your chance at succeeding is to try to put in place multiple solutions for a single problem. For example, if your problem is that you cannot make it to work on time then you should try to solve the problem through multiple solutions. These solutions could be eating corn flakes for breakfast, aiming to reach work an hour before time or even laying out all your clothes for the morning at night.

Think innovation as against thinking imitation.

When you start trying to make your own improvement a part of your life, you would feel to just start copying someone who you idolize. This would not result in much success because every individual has his own ways of dealing with things. If a person has some way of dealing with something, it does not mean that this way would suit you as well. The trick for you is that you try to find your own solutions because your problems would be specific to you as well.

For example, a person might decide to ride a bike to work to make sure he is not late. However, this might not be a good solution for you because you might not know how to ride a bike. Therefore, your solution would have to not only fit your specific qualities but also your specific preferences.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Impact of Globalization on Taxation

Globalization can be defined as the process of increasing connectivity and uniting the worlds markets and businesses. Globalization has emerged the last couple decades as the internet has emerged, making it easier for people to travel, communicate, and do business internationally. When economies become more connected to other economies, they have increased opportunity but also increased competition. With Globalization evolving, more and more pro globalization and anti globalization lobbies have arisen. The pro globalization party argues that globalization brings about much increased opportunities for almost everyone, where the anti-globalization parties argue that certain groups of people who are deprived in terms of resources are not currently capable of functioning within the increased competitive pressure.
The Problem we face is that Globalization links the world's major companies together and makes it more of a universal world. This may dramatically impact the majority of populations around the world because of the fact that many of these major companies find loopholes in the system and can hire accountants and lawyers and scheme their way around paying enormous amounts of tax whereas the average person is deprived of fair tax laws and the burden is placed on them to make up for the chunk of loss tax money. Multinational companies are well placed to exploit tax havens and hide true profits thereby avoiding tax. Through offshore tax havens and fraud, and through transfer pricing, billions of dollars go untaxed. Estimates range from $50 billion to $200 billion of revenue losses worldwide. These corporations use transfer pricing to make up for missing tax money by saying the revenues were utilized in selling a good or service to another company or subsidiary. It's kind of compared to money laundering where criminals open business to say they make revenue through a good or service but in turn they are operating an illegal business but can tell the IRS they have made profit from something legal.
Many people wonder why taxation is so important. For rich countries like the United States, one main reason is that the less tax paid to the government means more for individuals, who are best placed to contribute to the economy. For poor countries it means they can determine their own route out of poverty. It's also the way they can begin to free themselves from dependence on handouts and the punitive conditions attached to aid. Faced with the pressures of Globalization and the threat that companies will relocate unless given lower taxes, governments have responded by engaging in tax competition to attract and retain investment capital. In the US there is little evidence that state and local tax cuts when paid for by reducing public services stimulate economic activity or create jobs. Yet there is evidence that increases in taxes, when used to expand the quantity and quality of public services, can promote economic development and employment growth.
Globalization is thought to reduce the ability of governments to collect taxes. If labor and capital can move between jurisdictions, then attempts to tax these factors will lead to a vanishing taxpayer as factors flee from high to low tax regions. Most economists support globalization because it raises the incomes of peoples worldwide through a one world economy and a competitive business market from the richest to the poorest countries. In other words it creates a one world economy where not just four or five countries rein supreme it creates more balance to try and help the poorer countries prosper. Globalization has been happening for decades. The US government has already surrendered massive amounts of power political and economic power to global organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Our economy has been emerging into a one world economy. If you look inside the United States many of our products sold in our stores are made from the other side of the world. Some people see globalization as sending millions of our jobs overseas and it is destroying the standard of living of America's middle class. In the new global system, multinational corporations can shop for labor almost anywhere they want. So why should they give American workers good wages and good benefits when they can legally pay large numbers of workers on the other side of the globe slave labor wages and get away with it? For blue collar American workers, globalization has turned out to be a very, very bad deal as you can see with Detroit, Pittsburgh and many other manufacturing cities across the United States. Now since they must compete with slave labor in other countries, the labor of these blue collar workers has become greatly devalued. This is having a devastating impact on manufacturing in the United States.
Much of the jobs and industries that have been outsourced have gone to nations such as China. So what is the impact of Globalization on taxation and America? As capital and labor become more mobile and internationally dependent, international tax competition increases. With more jobs being shipped overseas and more and more Americans out of work and taxes increasing, it seems like our country has shifted their focus towards a Wal-mart state of mind. Sustainability is the plan for the our country and as far as tax competition it should bring more companies to poorer nations and leave Americans with fast food chains, Universal Health care and Wal-Mart. Globalization makes it harder for countries to tax at high rates because people and capital will flow out. As labor and capital become more mobile, international tax competition increases. With tax competition individuals and businesses gain the freedom to take advantage of low tax rates abroad. On the other side, Globalization could mean more trading and therefore more jobs created because more and different resources will be available to Americans. This could in turn open all types of new markets for Americans, which would create a new era of jobs for many unemployed Americans. Only the future will tell what the impact of globalization means to tax rates and American business. Until then, it seems sustainability may be the key to reviving a down-spiraling economy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Russian Demographics - Something Stirring in the East

By Claus Vistesen: Hull

One of the reasons that I have always had a problem with Goldman Sachs' infamous notion of the BRIC economies was not the fact that it excluded other important economies such as e.g Chile or Indonesia, but rather that Brazil, India, Russia and China never belonged in the same group. The reason for this is largely because of demographics. Both Russia and China are consequently set to age much more rapidly than India and Brazil due to very rapid fertility transition in the 1990s. The demographic situation is especially dire in Russia which not only saw a dramatic and lingering decline in fertility in the 1990s but also saw a corresponding increase in mortality (aids and alcohol as big culprits).
A recent piece by Carl Haub suggests however tha while doom and gloom used to be the prevailing tone on the state of Russian demographics recent trends suggest that this should change.
Back in 2000, Russia achieved what Russians consider a dubious milestone, deaths (2,225,300) outnumbered births (1,266,800) by an astounding 958,500. The crude birth rate had sunk to 8.7 births per 1,000 population. Along with a crude death rate of 15.3, natural increase hit an all-time low of –6.6 per 1,000, or –0.7 percent rounded off. The total fertility rate (TFR) bottomed out at 1.195 children per woman. The crisis, as it was seen to be, was definitely noticed, but nothing really effective was done until 2007 when Vladimir Putin announced a baby bonus of the equivalent of $9,000 for second and further births. Putin has been an outspoken advocate for raising the birth rate and improving health conditions in order to avoid the consequences of sustained very low fertility. The program must have worked since births in 2007 jumped to 1,610,100 from 1,479,600 the previous year and have rising ever since. This is one of the very few “success stories” in the industrialized countries’ efforts to raise the birth rate.
Together with the rest of Eastern Europe that was re-joined with the West after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia experienced one of the most brutal fertility transitions ever seen. Indeed, history seems to have been extraordinarily cruel to many countries in Eastern Europe in handing them a second chance at the end of the 1980s just to take it away with the other hand as their demographic fundamentals collapsed. The birth dearth in the East even stretched into Eastern Germany where the total number of live births fell from 215700 to 88300 in the period 1988 to 1992.
I have previously mused that perhaps those multinationals eager to expand eastwards would have to go all the way to Kamchatka to find qualified labour and perhaps even fail entirely and back in 2006, the only silver lining that the Economist's Berlin correspondent could find was how a residing population had led to a revival of wildlife with the lynx returning to Germany's Eastern borders.
Perhaps though, it is time to put this discourse to rest?

Russia in Transition

From 1989 to 1999/2001 the total fertility rate in Russia fell from replacement levels to around 1.1/1.3 and notable effort [1] has been put into explaining why birth rates fell so much, so quickly.
Grogan (2006) uses a household survey tracking data from 1994 to 2001 and finds that a large part of the decline in fertility among married couples can be attributed to the decline in household income in the same period. Grogan (2006) however also sheds light on other aspects of Russia's fertility during the Soviet era. In particular, the paper sets out to explain completed cohort fertility for women born between 1936 and 1961 and finds that women with higher education had considerably lower completed cohort fertility rates than their counterparts. This squares well with the notion of the quantity/quality tradeoff of fertility famously developed by Gary S Becker [2] and how parents substitute quantity for quality as their income levels rise (with education), but it comes with an important twist in the Russian case. Since female labour force participation was almost universal during the Soviet era and since women with less than higher education often earned the same (or more) than their better educated peers, Grogan (2006) seems to imply an inherent demand, by part of well educated women, for quality rather than quantity in their fertility decisions.
The other driver of fertility decline in the form of the tempo effect is also present in Russia, but Grogan (2006) is skeptical as to its merits in explaining the sharp fall in fertility in the 1990s. It does appear to coincide with a change in attitude towards marriage and, specifically, births outside marriage, but from 1988 to 2000, mariage rates declined for the broad category of women (aged 15-44) as well as the share of total live births taking place outside marriage rose from about 14% to 26%.
In essence, the tempo effect over the period in question is not linear and seems to neutralize itself over time.
From 1989 to 1994, the share of births to mothers under 20 actually rose and then declined to just above 1989 levels in 2000. Not surprisingly, the share of total non marital live births among mothers aged less than 20 years rose sharply from 1989 to 2000. This suggests that the extent to which non-marital live births increased, it resulted in children being borne to young mothers. From a theoretical perspective, this is important in relation to how a change in the life course towards postponing marriage also leads to a postponement of childrearing. A norm of non-marriage child births may then serve to weigh against the tempo effect of fertility.
This non-linearity of the tempo effect throughout what was essentially a sharp linear decline in fertility is interesting. The charts produced in Grogan (2006, p. 65 fig XI) clearly suggests that from 1989 to 1994 total live births for young mothers aged under 20 as well as those from 20-24 rose as share of overall birhts. This reverses somewhat in 1994 where live births for mothers aged 25-29 starts to increase as well as those aged 30-34. Yet Grogan (2006) notes that since there is no meaningful change in the fraction of total live births of "older" mothers in 2000 relative to 1989, the decline in fertility in Russia is not a postponement phenomenon.
Brainerd (2006) builds on the points above by similarly latching on to the idea that the economic hardship bestowed on Russian citizens in the 1990s contributed to the decline in fertility. This suggests again a more permanent negative quantum effect at work rather than merely a postponement phenomenon. But the underlying causes of the fertility decline is cut very finely by Brainerd (2006). Notably, the paper argues for a pure negative income effect on birth rates and thus a reversal of the standard quantity-quality tradeoff as developed by Becker. The interesting thing here is that little evidence is found that general macroeconomic uncertainty (of the future) affect fertility even if women with more negative expectations of the future had a higher propensity of abortion.
Quantitatively, Brainerd (2006) finds strong evidence for how marriage and a higher income per capita positively affects fertility using a fixed effect estimation with age specific fertility rates as dependent variable. Since marriage rates and income declined in the period 1989 to 1999, it leads to the conclusion that this caused the decline in fertility. I find this plausible, but would note that the estimation results suggests that underlying uncertainty of the future might still be affecting these results. For example, Brainerd (2006) shows how the effect of income on fertility is strongest for young mothers which indicates that permanent income may be a more useful proxy for linking fertility to income levels than the traditional method of using fluctuations in current income. It also sugggests that the income effect might be lower over time in the aggregate if we assume a general process of postponement, but this is dubious in Russia's case following Grogan (2006).

And now lets go make some kids ... ?
In general, the tendency of non-marital births is interesting to dwell on and Perelli-Harris (2008) [3] draws a sharp distinction between two reasons to explain it. The first relates to the notion of the second demographic transition [4] which postulates that the extent to which non-marital births occur in stabile cohabitations, as e.g. in the Scandinavian countries, it reflects a change in value towards marriage and thus a change in the life course. Contrary to this stands evidence, largely from the US, that non-marital births are associated with much less stable unions and, generally, poorer levels of society.
Not surprisingly, Perelli-Harris et al (2008) do not ascribe either of these explanations to the rise of non-marital fertility in Russia, but rather; a mixture of both. One important aspect here is the extent to which, after a non-marital contraception, women with higher education tend to enter into marriage with a much higher probability than women with lower education. But everyone will be able to find sources to support their argument with for example this article by Sergei V. Zakharov and Elena I. Ivanova arguing for a more traditional second demographic transition process in Russia.
One overarching conclusion which emerges on the fertility decline in Russia is that it was not driven primarily by birth postponement but seems to have been pushed by a more lingering quantum effect. The more specific driving forces of this quantum effect is much more difficult to get a hold on, but from the perspective of the macroeconomist it appears as if Russia entered a sinister spiral of increasing mortality and declining fertility just as the economy was meant to rebuild and then later take off on the much hailed wave of convergence. In particular, it appears as if the general adverse economic environment in Russia in the 1990s may have caused fertility rates to "undershoot".

Pro-natalism in Russia, Action and Reaction?

While we may certainly look upon Russia's demographic experience as a frightening example of the effect of negative population momentum, it would be unfair to say that the Russian leadership has been sitting idle. In 2006, Vladimir Putin announced a number of pro-natalist initiatives targeted at reversing the the decline of Russia's population. The plan included longer maternity leave, increased child benefits and most notably a full USD 9000 payment to women opting to have a second child Brainerd (2006).
In May 2009, president Medvedev arranged for eigth families to be courted at the Kremlin where they were awarded the Order of Parental Glory; the Levyokin family chosen to represent the Moscow region had, at the time, given birth to no less than 6 children.

Getting his Priorities Straight
The question is whether it has worked?
According to Carl Haub it has (see above), and if this is indeed one of the few success stories of how ageing economies can reverse their birth rate, it is worth paying more than scant attention to. The data here is subject to some uncertainty, but following Haub's lead the total fertility rate in Russia stood at 1.54 in 2010 which is up from a low point of 1.2 in 2000. In addition, Haub notes an important distinction between rural and urban fertility rates with the former standing at 1.9 in 2010 and the latter at 1.42. This last point is difficult to underestimate since it shines a rather pessimistic initial light on the strides to increase fertility in Russia. In particular, it casts russia in a more classic emerging market context witha a very abrupt quantity/quality trade-off at work whereby especially urban fertililty undershoots significantly below the replacement level.
Still, the aggregate picture is improving.
(click on charts for better viewing)
In the jargon of the profession we must now be seriously asking whether Russia is about to join the very few nations that has managed to break free of the fertility trap defined here as how total fertility rates often don't recover (or has not recovered yet!) once they fall below 1.5. The only two other countries which have seen their fertility levels rebound from below 1.5 are Denmark and France.
I would happily announce that this is the case, but the plot is just about to thicken.
On the positive side and given evidence from the academic literature that the tempo effect is not a relevant phenomenon in a Russian context, it stands to reason that this rebound can be interpreted as a real change in sentiment towards having children.
Score one for Russia's pro-natalist policies then?
To some extent though Carl Haub pours water on this idea noting that the second derivative of the fertility increase is falling which leads him to ponder whether the rise of Russian births is losing steam. This argument is taken further by Kumo (2010) [5] who suggests that not only did Russia's pro-natal policies not work in the first place, but also that the rise in the number of births can be attributed entirely to fluctuations in the number of women in their reproductive age. More importantly however, Kumo (2010) emphasizes the difficulties of micro managing fertility and specifically the issue of just how difficult it is to get a lasting impact on fertility from cash transfers. In short, empirical evidence shows that pro-natalist policies rarely have a permanent effect. This is even more likely to be significant in a Russian context as the fund set up to dole out money to fertile mothers expires in 2016.

Ageing in Russia, Adjusting for Mortality

To assume that the Russian government's attempt to push up fertility rates will have a lasting permanent effect is probably as dubious as assuming that it will have no effect at all. In addition, if Russia is serious about securing a future balanced population pyramid, what is to say that there won't be more initiatives?
Still, it appears that just as Russia seem to be making strides in the fertility department, the appalling situation for adult male mortality continues to taint the overall picture. Here, the optimists will call foul play and point out how the main story on Russian demographics has recently been a co-movement of improving mortality and fertility rates. This may be true, but overall conditions are still poor.
According to data from the World Bank only a mere 47.4% of a male cohort can expect to celebrate their 65th birthday which contrasts with 78.5% for women. On average (from 1998 to 2009) only 44.5% of a given male cohort could expect to reach 65 years.

Despite the visible improvement since the mid 2000s, the evidence from a birds eye view has not changed. Male life expectancy seems to be mean reverting around 61 to 62 (at birth) and mortality for adult males exhibits an increasing trend. An afinity to Vodka and other spirits as well as too many cigarettes appear to be lingering killers. Recent research (2009) from the medicinal sciences using mortality patterns from Tomsk, Barnaul and Biysk suggests alcohol was a cause of more than half of all Russian deaths at ages 15-54 years.
As a result, the natural increase is still negative as the up-tick in births has still not managed to pip the mortality rate here even if it seems a more lasting change may be underway here.

A Rare Sight
Regardless of the permanency of recent years' improvement in fertility Russia cannot escape a rapid process of ageing. More than anything, this is why I so ardently argue against lumping Russia together with India and Brazil or more specifically; in Russia there is no positive demographic dividend in sight; rather what we have is a negative one.
Of course, we cannot simply assume that the Russian population will fall from here on as one would assume (and hope) that Russia manages to reverse the trend in mortality. What we can see however is that in terms of the prime age group (35-54), Russia is likely to have peaked already in 2004 even if the effect of the double hump is interesting to consider (a result of assuming a perpetually declining population).

In addition, the process of ageing means that there is almost no chance of Russia being able to contribute to global rebalancing by sustainably running an external deficit. This is one of the single most important macroeconomic characteristics which suggests why we should not label Russia as an "emerging" economy. Russia and the CEE will instead be fighting to escape the mantle that they may just have grown old befor they made it to become rich.

Especially the younger part of the labour force will invariably be subject to a swift decline and the composition of the labour force is crucial to consumption smoothing on the aggregate level and thus capital flows.
However, the most important aspect in the context of ageing in Russia is to adjust for the continuing high mortality rate among men. In a recent piece in Sciencemag Warren C. Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov argue that we should rethink ageing given that as the world population ages so does the threshold at which we can consider a person (or population) to be "old".
(...) as life expectancies increase and people remain healthy longer, measures based solely on fixed chronological ages can be misleading. Recently, we published aging forecasts for all countries based on new measures that account for changes in longevity (58). Here, we add new forecasts based on disability status. Both types of forecasts exhibit a slower pace of aging compared with the conventional ones.
This makes perfectly good sense and governments around the world are busy pushing up retirement ages to reflect this, but does this apply in a Russian context? What good would it do to push up the retirement age in Russia if less than half of a male cohort makes it to 65? The principle applied by messieurs Scherbov and Sanderson cuts both ways and in Russia's case we must incorporate an additional accelerant in our analysis of ageing to account for the continuing high rate of mortality and indeed an effect which will take some decades to pass through the pyramid.

Something Stirring in the East?
The recent improvement in Russia's demographic indicators begs the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. On the former I would note two things. Firstly, Russia has indeed seen a noticeable improvement in both fertility and mortality and it seems to have coincided with the government's strategic aim to actually do something about the country's decaying demographics. Secondly, I will salute the effort in itself. We can all probably agree that Russia has veered a little too much towards the way of authoritarianism under Putin, but whatever the underlying ambitions to push forward a positive population agenda I think it is extraordinarily important.
On the latter however, I am still worried that the trend in mortality have not been reversed and that, if anything, the situation is improving all too slowly. I am open to a more positive spin, but the data and an, admittedly scant, look at the evidence gives little comfort. As a result, ageing in Russia will be much more acute and its effect will have a much larger and negative impact than if life expectancy was a steadily increasing function of time. Indeed, given the continuing poor state of especially male health in Russia it is questionable whether the measures above of "peak growth" apply at all.
The most important feature of Russia's demographic rebound is its potential permanency and especially we should watch whether Russia manages to stay above a fertility rate of 1.5. If this turns out to be case, we could harbour a hope that not only lynxes but also a rejuvenated Russian population may be stirring in the East.
* All photos in this essay are taken from Creative Commons License accounts at Flickr. Data for the charts are from the World Bank Database and US Census Bureau (long term population forecasts).
[1] - In the following I will make extensive use of Louise Grogan (2006) - An Economic Examination of the Post-Transition Fertility Decline in Russia and Elizabeth Brainerd (2006) - Fertility in Transition: Understanding the Fertility Decline in Russia of the 1990s.
[2] - Becker, G. (1960) - An economic analysis of fertility, In Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries. NBER: New York
[3] - Perelli-Harris, Brienna and Gerber, Theodore P. (2008) Non-marital fertility in Russia: second demographic transition or low human capital? In, Population Association of America 2008 Annual Meeting, New Orleans, US 17 - 19 Apr 2008. , 33pp.
[4] - The second demographic transition has many sources but these ones by Dirk J. van de Kaa are a good starting place.
[5] - Kazuhiro Kumo (2010) - Explaining fertility trends in Russia, VOX EU