Location: CIS

Did Russian Migration to Russia Affect the Labor Market?

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As a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, five million Russian and Russian-speaking people repatriated to Russia during 1990-2002. I use this natural experiment to study the effect of a large migration wave on the employment and wages of the local population. Taking into account the non-random choice of location by migrants within Russia, I find a negative effect of the inflows of immigrants on the local population’s employment but not on wages. The initial negative effects on employment are particularly large for local men, but they disappear after about ten years from the peak of the migration wave.

The effect of migration on the labor market of the host country is a long-standing question within economic literature and in public debate. In many cases, researchers try to estimate this effect using the data on large and unanticipated migration movements. The most famous study of this kind is probably Card (1990). Another case is the Russian migration to Russia resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the 2002 Russian Census, 5.2 million of the people living in Russia in 2002 resided outside the country in 1989. That is, 3.6 percent of the 2002 population immigrated to Russia after 1989. Almost all of them (94.4 percent) immigrated from the former Soviet republics, most notably Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The existing literature on migration flows in the former Soviet Union (fSU) since its collapse has emphasized the socio-political factors of migration. Locher (2002) finds that ethnic sorting was a major determinant of migration among the fSU countries, with the countries’ stage of transition and wealth level playing a minor role. Yerofeeva (1999) shows that ethnic repatriation was one of the main reasons behind migration from northern and eastern Kazakhstan.

In Lazareva (2015), I study two sides of the labor market effects of the immigration from fSU countries to Russia. The first side is the process of assimilation of migrants in the Russian labor market. The second side is the effect that inflows of immigrants had on the labor market position of the local population in Russia. Data used for estimation span a long period of time, which allows for tracing dynamic long-term effects of the influx of immigrants. This is the first comprehensive study of the labor market effects of one of the largest migration waves in Europe in recent history.


In order to estimate the effects of the inflow of immigrants on the employment and wages of the local population, I exploit variation in the share of immigrants across Russian regions. According to the Census in 2002, migrants were quite dispersed over Russia’s vast territory; their share in population varied from 0.42% in the Tyva region to 8.5% in the Kaliningrad region. A relatively large share of migrants is observed along the border to fSU countries as well as in the oil-rich regions of Western Siberia.

A major problem when using regional variation to estimate labor market effects is that the migrants’ choice of region may be affected by the condition of that region’s labor market. Naturally, migrants tend to choose locations with higher wages and more employment opportunities. If this is the case, the estimates of the labor market effects will be biased.

However, the immigrants’ choice of location was not completely unconstrained due to the costs of migration related to the distance and access to information. Given these constraints, there is a relative crowding of immigrants in the regions of Russia that are closer to the border with fSU countries. Hence, I use the variation in the share of migrants across regions, which depend on the geographical distance from the source countries. In other words, I obtain the estimates from the comparison of regions that are similar in all their characteristics except for the distance to the border with fSU.

Data and Results

I use panel data on households from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey for the period 1995-2009. In the 2009 survey, the respondents were asked since what year they live in the Russian Federation. I define as immigrants, people at the age of 18 and above who moved to Russia after 1989. Note that the RLMS sample, which consists of people residing in the same dwelling units in each round, is unlikely to include illegal migrants or temporary (seasonal) labor migrants. Rather these are mainly people who settled in Russia permanently at some point during the 1990s and 2000s.

In the RLMS sample, 3.6 percent of the respondents moved to Russia after 1989. This is consistent with the national-level statistical data on immigration flows. A majority of the immigrants arrived to Russia in the early and mid-1990s. Immigration peaked in 1994 when almost 1.2 million people moved to Russia. After that, immigration steeply declined; during the 2000s, the registered level of immigration was at about 200,000 people per year.

A majority of the immigrants (71.7%) in the RLMS sample are of Russian ethnicity, and there is a slightly higher share of males. Importantly, migrants are not significantly different from the locals in terms of their education levels. The statistics on marital status show that a higher share of migrants compared to locals have families and children. Apparently, family migration was a large part of this migration wave.

Using the methodology described above, I obtain an insignificant effect of the share of immigrants on the wages of the local population over the period of 1995-2009. The effect of immigrant share on the unemployment of the local population is also insignificant. In contrast, estimates for the labor force participation (LFP) show a significant negative effect of immigration on the LFP of the local population. The size of the effect is non-negligible: a one-percentage point increase in the share of immigrants in a region reduces the probability for a local person to be in the labor force by 0.6 percentage points. Thus, over the whole period of 1995-2009, Russian immigration is estimated to have had some displacement effect, but only in terms of the labor force participation of the local population.

Since the inflow of immigrants was mostly concentrated in the first half of 1990s, I estimate my model for three sub-periods: 1995-2000, 2001-2004, and 2005-2009. The results for the wages remain insignificant in all sub-periods. Immigration is shown to increase the unemployment among locals in the first half of 2000s, but this effect dissipated in the second half of 2000s. The effect of immigration on the labor force participation is negative and highly significant for the late 1990s, still negative and significant but smaller in magnitude in the early 2000s, and disappears in the late 2000s. This analysis suggests that the immigration wave had a quite significant displacement effect for the local population in terms of unemployment and labor force participation, but not in terms of wages. This effect slowly declined and had disappeared by the second half of 2000s. My results also suggest that the negative labor market effects were more significant for men than for women.


The results of this study have implications for the debate on the effect of immigration on local labor markets, in particular on wages and employment opportunities for the native population. The majority of existing studies find only minor negative effects of migration on the labor market position of locals. My results suggest that immigrants who are close substitutes to the local labor force, due to the common language and similar education, have more significant effects on the labor market outcomes of the local population.

The finding that displacement effects in Russia dissipated quite slowly may be related to the very low migration rates of the local population in Russia throughout the transition. In order to reduce negative labor market effects of large influxes of immigrants, policy measures are needed that improve labor mobility across regions. These may include moving or housing subsidies, retraining programs and policies ensuring equal access to jobs and public services for internal migrants across the regions of Russia.


  • Card, David, 1990, The Impact of the Mariel Boatlift on the Miami Labor Market, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 245-257.
  • Lazareva O. Russian Migrants to Russia: Assimilation and Local Labor Market Effects //IZA Journal of Migration. 2015. No. 4:20
  • Locher, Lilo, 2002, “Migration in the Soviet Successor States,” Applied Economics Quarterly, 48 (1), 2002, 67-84
  • Yerofeyeva, Irina, 1999, “Regional aspects of Slavic migration from Kazakhstan on the basis of examples from North Kazakhstan and East Kazakhstan provinces”. In: Vyatkin, Anatoly, Kosmarskaya, Natalya, Panarin, Sergei (Eds.), V Dvizhenii Dobrovoljnom i Vynuzhdennom [In Motion—Voluntary and Forced]. Natalis, Moscow, pp. 154–179

Changes in Oil Price and Economic Impacts

Authors: Chloé Le Coq and Zorica Trkulja, SITE.

Oil has for decades been perceived as a necessary and highly addictive energy commodity, fueling the world economy. It is a crucial input good for most of the net-oil consumer countries, and it is an important source of revenue for the net-oil supplier countries. This means that any changes in the oil price will affect the entire world economy. However, the extent to which the oil-price fluctuations matter for the economy depends on the perspective (e.g. whether it is that of the macro economy, international trade, firm strategies, or the climate economy). In this policy brief, we outline the answers to this question that were provided at the 9th SITE Energy Day, held at the Stockholm School of Economics on November 5, 2015.                                                    

Does Gender Matter for the Innovativeness of SMEs?

This policy brief summarizes the results of an on-going research project on the gender aspect of companies’ innovativeness in transition countries. The aim of this work is to examine whether there is a gender gap in innovative behavior within the sector of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The results suggest that the propensity to innovate is higher among companies with a presence of a female owner.   This finding preserves for 5 measures of innovativeness. Thus, female involvement in business might be beneficial for the innovative sustainable development of economy.

The role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has increased lately and they are considered one of the main engines of economic growth (Radas and Bosic, 2009). Research on transition economies and development has emphasized the need for strong a SME sector, since it often acts as the backbone of the economy (Lukasc, 2005) and is the largest contributor of employment (Omar et al., 2009). Another important channel through which the SME sector contributes to development is through their innovative activities. Sustainable economic development requires competitive and successful industries. Being innovative is one way to achieve this goal. However, the innovativeness of sectors and industries depends not only on the actions of the largest companies, but also on the SME sector and individual entrepreneurs. Indeed, the latter are often argued to be more dynamic and more ambitious (Chalmers, 1989; Li and Rama, 2015).

The decision to follow an innovative strategy often depends on the company’s leader, their experience and other managerial characteristics. However, the experience of the leader is not the only factor affecting managerial actions – gender also appears to matter (Daunfeldt and Rudholm, 2012). In the absence of clear answers and knowledge about female managerial characteristics, including their innovativeness (Alsos et al., 2013), it is difficult to evaluate their role in modernizing the business society and to distinguish their competitive advantages or disadvantages over male managers and business owners.

The role becomes even more ambiguous for the transition, post-communist economies. The labor market under USSR officially provided equal rights to women. However, in practice women were treated differently than men. While women often had to do the same work as men, the patriarchal society remained with men being regarded as the main decision makers, and women being fully responsible for housework and childcare. This can explain the low presence of women in top-managerial positions and women’s weaker business ties and networks (Welter et al., 2004).

The question of gender and innovation in entrepreneurship has recently starting to attract attention. Earlier, innovativeness was strongly connected and associated with high-tech companies. Thus, innovation research mostly focused on technology-based and capital-intensive industries (Dauzenberg, 2012; Marlow and McAdam, 2012). As a result, innovation behavior in less capital-intensive SMEs was almost entirely overlooked. This can also explain the lack of focus on gender, as men usually dominated the capital-intensive industries (Ljunggren et al., 2010).  In an ongoing research project, I am trying to expand the understanding of gender differences in innovation and SME entrepreneurship with a focus on transition economies and the CIS block in particular.

The idea is to estimate owners’ and CEOs propensity to implement innovations in the organization. The specification of the model follows the literature and uses a probit technique that allows for an estimation of these propensities while taking into account other influencing factors and individual characteristics of firms, their owners and CEOs, which likely affect innovative decisions. The data I use come from the 5th wave of the Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey (BEEPS) conducted in 2012-2013. The final dataset covered 5254 SMEs from 30 European and East Asia countries.

The main variable of interest is the innovativeness of the enterprise, proxied by 5 different indicators. The measures of implemented innovative activities are: 1) whether the firms introduced a new product or service during the last 3 years; 2) whether there was any new production process implemented; 3) whether there were any spending on research and development; 4) whether were was an introduction of a new marketing strategy and method; and 5) whether an enterprise implemented new methods in operational management. The usage of 5 indicators instead of one allows me to see whether there is any specific feature of innovativeness that differs by gender.

The list of control variables covers information on the gender of the CEO and owners, number of years of experience of the CEO, age of the firm, type of ownership, focus on internal and external markets, as well as the usage of foreign technologies and certification. I also have information on the share of skilled labor force, the share of females in the organization, and whether the organization bears additional costs on external consulting services and training of employees. Information on industry, country, size of the organization and type of residence is also available.

Unfortunately, the data lacks information on the number of owners, which will prohibit me from estimating the clear gender effects and limits the analysis to the effect of gender diversity among owners.

The obtained results (see Table 1) show that having a female as the only, or one of the, owner(s) increases the propensity of going into uncertainty and implementation of a new good/service by 4.5% in the CIS region and 6.7% in the non-CIS block. However, the effect of having a female CEO is insignificant. This finding contradicts the literature on gender differences in the willingness to take on risk (Wagner, 2001; He et al., 2007; Eckel et al., 2008; Croson and Gneezy, 2009) that mostly demonstrates that women, on average, are more risk-averse than men.

A similar effect is observed for the implementation of a new business process or marketing strategy. The only insignificant difference is the spending on R&D in CIS countries and new managerial methods in non-CIS block. However, these measures of innovativeness raise doubts regarding its applicability for SME sector. A shift from high-intense productions towards services makes it less useful to spend enormous sums of money on technological research. Instead, other innovative actions like the development of human capital are of greater importance.

Table 1. Propensity to innovate

Akulava_tab1Source: Author’s own estimation.


The results show that having a female owner or gender diversity in the ownership structure positively affects the propensity of the organization to follow innovative behaviors and strategies. Therefore, promoting female entrepreneurship and gender equality in ownership seem positive for increasing the innovativeness of companies, and the economy in general, in both the CIS and non-CIS block.


  • Alsos, G.A., Hytti, U., and Ljunggren, E. 2013.Gender and Innovation: State of the Art and a Research Agenda.International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 5(3):236-256.
  • Chalmers, N. 1989. Industrial Relations in Japan: The Peripheral Workforce. London: Routledge.
  • Croson, R. and Gneezy, U. 2009. “Gender Differences in Preferences”.Journal of Economic Literature.Volume 47, #2.
  • Daunfeldt, S., O., and Rudholm, N., (2012). Does gender diversity in the boardroom improve firm performance? Department of Economics, Dalarna University, SE-781 88 Borlänge, Sweden; and HUI Research, SE-103 29 Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Dautzenberg, K. 2012. Gender differences of business owners in technology-based firms.International Journal of Gender & Entrepreneurship,4:79–98.
  • Eckel, C. and Grossman, P. 2008. “Men, Women and Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence”. Handbook of Experimental Economic Results.Elsevier.Volume 1, #7.
  • He, X., Inman, J.J. and Mittal, V. (2007), “Gender jeopardy in financial risk taking”, Journal of Marketing Research, 44: 414-24.
  • Li, Y., and Rama, M. 2015. Firm Dynamics, Productivity Growth, and Job Creation in Developing Countries: The Role of Micro- and Small Enterprises. The World Bank Research Observer, 30: 3-38.
  • Ljundggren, E., Alsos, G.A., Amble, N., Ervik, R., Kvidal, T., Wiik, R. 2010. Gender and innovation: Learning from regional VRI projects. Nordland Research Institute, Norway.
  • Lukacs, E. 2005. The economic role of SMEs in world economy, especially in Europe. European Integration Studies, 4(1): 3-12.
  • McAdam, M. and Marlow, S. 2008.The Business Incubator and the Female High-Technology Entrepreneur: A Perfect Match? Paper presented at the 2008 International Council for Small Business World Confrence, recipient of the 2008 Best Paper Award for Women Entrepreneurship.
  • Omar, S. S., Arokiasamy, L., & Ismail, M. 2009. The background and challenges faced by the small and medium enterprises. A human resources development perspectives. International Journal of Business and Management, 4(10): 95-102.
  • Radas, S., and Božić, Lj. 2009.The Antecedents of SME Innovativeness in an Emerging Transition Economy. Technovation, 29: 438-450.
  • Wagner, M.K. (2001), “Behavioral characteristics related to substance abuse and risk-taking, sensation-seeking, anxiety sensitivity and self-reinforcement”, Addictive Behaviors , Vol. 26, pp. 115-20.
  • Welter, F., Smallbone, D., Isakova, N., Aculai, E. and Schakirova, N. 2004. Social Capital and Women Entrepreneurship in Fragile Environments: Does Networking Matter? Paper presented at Babson College-Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurship Research Conference, University of Strathclyde.

Expected Effects of Tobacco Taxation in Five Countries of the Former Soviet Union


Authors: Irina Denisova and Polina Kuznetsova, CEFIR.

In this policy brief, we discuss the results from a study of different dimensions of tobacco taxation policy in five former Soviet Union countries: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Russia and Ukraine. We find that the increase in budget revenue from raising excises on filter cigarettes is high in all studied countries. Furthermore, due to a low elasticity of the demand for cigarettes, the increase in excise taxes needs to be substantial to lead to a noticeable improvement in public health.  

Macroeconomic Performance and Preferences for Democracy

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This policy brief summarizes the results of our research on factors influencing preferences for democracy in transition countries. The aim of this work was to detect which macroeconomic and individual factors impact the choice of supporting democracy. The results showed that the performance of the country, described by level of GDP, unemployment, level of corruption and economic growth, has a serious impact on an individual’s perception of democracy. At the same time, individual factors like education and age also influence people’s choice of support of democratic authorities.

Individual perception of democracy is a question that attracts the attention of policymakers.  The macroeconomic instability that has been observed worldwide lately is likely to impact individual attitude toward democratic values and political institutions. The recent economic crisis brought a deterioration of the economic situation around the world and provided new challenges to cope with. It is likely that macroeconomic indicators have an impact on how a person perceives democracy. Literature studying similar questions has shown that GDP growth, unemployment and inflation all affect personal attitude to democratic institutions (Clarke et. al., 1994; Barro, 1999; Papaioannou and Siourounis, 2008). As for individual characteristics, the level of education is revealed by the literature as a very important factor in the context of the individual’s propensity of democracy approval.

The literature on the determinants of political support and attitudes to democracy was mostly focusing on exploring stable world economies with long-formed and steady-functioning democracies. We tried to look at a similar question in the context of transition economies, where democratic institutions are still under development.

We intend to estimate individuals’ propensity to favor democratic values. The specification of our econometric model was based on the literature addressing the same topic. The estimation procedure used probit econometric techniques, which allows for the calculation of the propensities of interest while taking into account the influence of both macroeconomic factors and individual characteristics. The paper used two sources of data: macroeconomic information was collected from the World Development Indicators of the World Bank, and individual-level cross-sectional data was obtained from Life in Transition Survey (LITS) 2010, which initially covered 38864 individuals from 35 countries. However, as the paper focuses on countries in transition, the final set only included individuals from 30 countries, most from Eastern Europe, Baltics and CIS, and excluded representatives of Western Europe. This data allowed for substantial data variation in the context of economic development vs. perception of democratic values (Graph 1).

Figure 1. Support of Democracy and GDP Per Capita
Source: WDI and LITS 2010

Inclusion of different macroeconomic variables together with individual factors allowed for an evaluation of their importance and level of impact on the perception of democratic values (Table 1). The results show that GDP per capita has a positive and significant effect on individuals’ perception of democratic values, which is in line with the literature claiming that standard of living in countries with not so high level of GDP is positively correlated with satisfaction with their life and the political system (Easterlin, 1995; Clark et al., 2008; Stevenson and Wolfers, 2008). Inflation rates are not significant and do not influence individuals’ attitude to democracy. On the other hand, economic growth is strictly positive and significant, and an increase of the economic growth rate raises propensity of democratic support by around 1.6 percentage points. The possible explanation here is that the growth rate of GDP works as a proxy of expectations for improvements of the standard of living in the future.

Table 1. Influence of Macroeconomic and Individual Factors on Perception of Democracy

Unemployment works as an indicator of a country‘s economic performance and has an expected negative sign in terms of individuals’ satisfaction with life and political institutions, which is also in line with the results in the literature (Di Tella et al., 2001; Wagner and Schneider, 2006). Impact of unemployment was tested using a cross product of unemployment and the Freedom House Index (this latter indicator shows the level of political and civil rights from 1 (most free) to 7 (least free)). The sign on this cross product is positive, which captures their mutual positive impact on the support for democracy. Thus, the higher the unemployment in a country with a low level of democratization is, the larger the probability of democratic support by individuals in these countries is.  The indicator for the level of corruption in a country was also taken into account, via the Corruption Perception Index. This index ranks countries on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (effectively, corruption-free). The results show that the less corrupt a country is, the higher the propensity that an individual in that country will support democracy is. In fact, one additional point in the index increases the propensity of support by almost 4 percentage points. Military expenditures negatively affect the support of democratic values, and so does the existence of oil in the country. Here, military expenditures may be seen as a proxy for a less democratic regime, so that the leaders there have higher incentives to rule using suppressive measures with a support of military force in the country (Mulligan, Gil and Sala-i-Martin, 2004).

As for the individual factors, both secondary and higher education appear to be very important factors with a positive impact on the satisfaction with democracy. This finding follows the literature (Barro, 1999; Przeworski et al., 2000; Glaeser et al., 2004). In our results, people with secondary or higher education degree showed 10 and 18 percentage points higher propensity of support, respectively. Age also seem to matter: positive perception of democracy is specific to those aged 18-54, compared to the older generation, which goes in line with the explanation that senior citizens are more conservative than younger citizens. We also observe a negative significant coefficient on female gender, which may, perhaps, be related to women being more conservative than men.

Subjective relative income measure (answer to the question “to which income quintile do you think you belong to?”) has a positive impact on the support for democracy. Surprisingly, individuals from middle-income group have a more positive attitude than those who regard themselves as rich. Employment status is positively correlated with the support for democracy. Moreover, self-employment and employment in the public sector have a larger effect on the propensity of positive attitude to democratic values than employment in the private sector.

Divorced and widowed people expressed less support for democracy than single individuals, which might signal some dissatisfaction that impacts on personal attitude. Urban residency is positively correlated with the support of democracy. The same relationship is present for the risk tolerance of an individual. Finally, inclusion of a subjective measure of life satisfaction brought some changes to the general picture. It appeared that those who are satisfied with life strongly support the democratic values and such mentality raises the propensity of support by 7 percentage points. Moreover, inclusion of this variable makes the effect of being rich insignificant.

To sum up, the results showed that economic performance of the country described by various macroeconomic indicators has a serious impact on individual’s perception of democracy and, most probably, of other forms of government. At the same time individual factors also influence people’s satisfaction with the authorities. Thus, individual support of a political system is based on the results of performance of both the individual and the country.


  • Barro R. 1999. “Determinants of Democracy.”Journal of Political Economy 107, #S6.
  • Clark A. and Oswald A.J. 1994.“Unhappiness and Unemployment.”EconomicJournal104.
  • Clark A., FrijtersP. and Shields M. 2008. “Relative Income,Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles.” Journal of Economic Literature46,# 1.
  • DiTellaR., MacCulloch R.J., Oswald A.J. 2001. “Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness.”American Economic Review91.
  • Easterlin R. 1995. “Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the Happiness of All?”Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization27, # 1.
  • Glaeser E., La PortaR., Lopez-de-SilanesF. and ShleiferA. 2004.“Do Institutions Cause Growth?” Journal of Economic Growth.9, #3.
  • Mulligan C.B., Gil R. and Sala-i-Martin X. 2004. “Do Democracies HaveDifferent Public Policies than Nondemocracies?” Journal of Economic Perspectives18, #1.
  • Papaioannou, E. and Siourounis G. 2008.“Economic and Social Factors Drivingthe Third Wave of Democratization.” Journal of Comparative Economics36, #3.
  • Prezworski A., Alvarez M., Cheibub J. and LimongiF. 1996. “WhatMakes Democracy Endure?” Journal of Democracy 7, #1.
  • Stevenson, B. and Wolfers, J. 2008. “Economic Growth and SubjectiveWell-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity  1.
  • Wagner A.F. andSchneider F. 2006. “Satisfaction with Democracy and the Environment in Western Europe: A Panel Analysis.” IZA Discussion Papers 1929, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Tajikistan Joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan: Pros and Cons

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Authors: I.A. Densiova, A.M. Malokostov, and N.A. Turdyeva, CEFIR

In this brief we summarize the results obtained in a CEFIR research project on the economic impact of Tajikistan joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan conducted for the Eurasian Development Bank in 2013 (EBD, 2013). We argue that integration has to be comprehensive to be mutually beneficial: indeed, trade effects are marginal, and the highest stakes are at migration regulation in the CU member-countries and the investment opportunities in Tajikistan.

Integration Formations in the Monetary Sphere: the Possibility and the Necessity for Monetary Integration in the Post-Soviet Region

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This policy brief addresses the possibility of monetary integration in the post-Soviet region. It provides a short overview of the literature devoted to the formation and development of the monetary unions, and argues that, based on this literature and real-world experiences, monetary integration can be of substantial value for the CIS states. However, such monetary union is not feasible in the near future due to weak economic integration of the national economies of the CIS countries, significant difference in their development level, and imbalances in allocation of bargaining power between the states. This policy brief suggests that a first step towards monetary integration could be an adoption of a supranational unit of account on the territory of the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The modern world has observed formation of a number of economic and monetary integration communities. Their performance varies greatly: some of them are developing successfully, others, on the contrary, are stagnating. Questions concerning the possibility of economic and monetary integration in the post-Soviet space are constantly addressed both by policymakers and by academic economists. Taking into account theoretical concepts and international experience, this brief addresses the possibility and desirability of the integration of the monetary sphere of the post-Soviet region. Based on Luzgina (2013a,b), this brief proposes a form of representation of monetary integration on the early stages of its development. In this case, an early form of monetary integration may be achieved via adoption of a single supranational unit of account on the territory of (a subset of) countries; the national currencies would continue to coexist with the new supranational currency. This approach to integration would allow preserving the independence of economic policy for the involved member states. At the same time, countries would benefit from a reduction in transaction costs and increasing convergence of national economies.

Background: Theoretical Concepts and World Experience of Monetary Integration

Ideally, the monetary union should have the form of an optimum currency area (OCA), a territory of one-currency domination with high level of integration and unification in different economic spheres. Modern economic science provides two main approaches considering the possibility of constructing an optimal currency zone on the territory of several states. The first suggests that optimality should be determined on the basis of implementing a specific group of criteria by countries. Among the main criteria, freedom of goods movement, labor and capital, openness and diversification of the economy, the synchronization inflation rates as well as integration in the financial sector can be mentioned. The second approach is based on a comparison of the benefits and costs in terms of the monetary union formation of the country with the highest economic potential. In practice, when studying the effectiveness of monetary integration, a synthesized approach is used. It includes evaluating by criteria, as well as taking into account costs and benefits that a country accrues in case of entering a particular monetary group. The main benefits of a monetary union include a reduction of transaction costs, trade relations enlargement, improving the discipline in the monetary sphere, and a reduction of the rate of international reserve sufficiency for every country-member. At the same time, there are some negative aspects of deep integration, such as loss of monetary policy independence, economic imbalances in case of weak convergence of national economies, loss of (part of) seigniorage income, and a possible negative public reaction to the adoption of a single currency.

When discussing the concept of monetary integration, it is important to understand the distinction between a monetary union and an optimum currency area. A monetary union is one of the most developed forms of a currency area, which implies a rigid anchor of national currencies to each other with a possible further transformation into the currency of the leading country, or to a single supranational currency (as in the case of the European Union). In this case, a monetary union can be formed of asymmetrical economies. Instead, the optimum currency area requires mandatory implementation of the main convergence criteria, and thereby, more symmetry/alignment among the members. Thus, a monetary union does not necessarily have to be an optimum currency area, while the optimum currency area has every opportunity to be transformed into a full-fledged monetary union [1].

Historically, there have been several examples of monetary union formations. The Italian monetary union (1862-1905), which was formed through the merger of disparate Italian lands, is among them. We can also identify the Scandinavian Monetary Union, which united Norway, Denmark and Sweden (1875-1917). The Austro-Hungarian monetary union existed in the period from 1867 to 1914. Currently, we observe formations of monetary unions in Africa, Latin America and the Arab states.

Despite the implementation of a number of integration projects within the various groups of countries over the past century, only the European states were able to achieve the highest form of monetary integration. It took them more than 50 years to do this, and the integration processes in the economic and monetary fields are continuing with new Member States joining the European Union. However, despite the detailed development plans for the implementation of a monetary union, the Eurozone countries face a number of difficulties and obstacles on the path of economic development. European monetary integration brings not only benefits, but also some costs. For example, the loss of independence of monetary policy creates obstacles in regulations of economic processes.

This discussion suggests that an assessment of the potential formation of a monetary union – that is, of desirability, feasibility and level of monetary integration within a particular group of countries – should be based on relating theoretical concepts and features of the countries in question, as well as a in-depth research of the experience of other currency unions.

Integration Processes in the Post-Soviet Space

At the territory of the former Soviet Union, integration projects have been implemented for more than 20 years. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, such integration formations as the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Community were created. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have built a Customs Union (CU) and a Common Economic Space (CES). There is also a possibility of making a transition to the highest form of integration – a monetary union. However, this raises a number of questions: which CIS countries should join a monetary union, when should this be done, and what is the optimal form of monetary union for integrating countries.

Luzgina (2013b) shows that, within the framework of the CIS countries, that there are significant differences in many of the macroeconomic indicators. Countries differ in terms of GDP and the growth rates of investment and prices. For example, Belarus has the highest inflation in the post-Soviet region. The source of growth also differs: for example, a number of countries, such as Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan, owe a significant part of their economic growth to the availability of natural resources, but this is not universally true within the CIS. Dynamics of population income is also significantly different among the countries. Here, Russia occupies the leading position with its average wage at the beginning of 2012 reaching 780 USD. At the same time, in Tajikistan, the average wage amounts to only 110 USD.

Another concern is that the formation of an economic and monetary union implies free movement of labor and capital. However, at this stage of development, it can lead to some negative consequences. Free movement of labor could involve a massive flow of labor from depressed areas to regions where incomes are much higher. This may create pressure on health and social services in the latter regions. In turn, free movement of capital may cause speculative attacks on the financial markets. At the same time, the CIS countries, except Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, do not have large gold reserves. Therefore, the free movement of capital flows without additional support may cause a crisis within the national financial systems. Out of all the gold reserves of the CIS countries, more than 85% of the total volume is owned by Russia. In the case of an abolition of restrictions on capital flows, countries that are exposed to speculative attacks are likely to ask Russia for help. Such a situation would require Russia to use its own financial resources, which would create an additional pressure on its international reserves.

Table 1. International reserves in the CIS countries, (million US dollars)









































Note: The author’s own calculation based on data from the World Bank

Russia is leading among the CIS countries in terms of population and territory, with other countries lagging substantially behind. For example, Belarus owns less than 1% of the total territory of the CIS countries and less than 4% of the population.

Relying on the above quantitative indicators it is natural to expect that in case of a formation of a monetary union with a single emission center, the distribution of votes in the decision-making of the development and implementation of monetary policy is likely to be unequal. The leading role would likely belong to Russia, which has the largest economic potential. However, other countries in this case may be in a less advantageous position as Russia’s decisions may lead to undesirable consequences for the economies of other countries, given the lack of a sufficient degree of synchronization of national economic systems.

Thus, a weak degree of economic integration of the national economies of the CIS countries, different levels of development, as well as the superiority of the economic potential of Russia over the other states gives reason to argue for a non-feasibility of monetary integration within the CIS countries in the short term.

On the other hand, it may be reasonable to consider the possibility of integration in the monetary sphere on the basis of the most economically integrated countries, namely Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. These countries have created a Customs Union and are implementing a project of forming a Common Economic Space. There are plans of creating the Eurasian Economic Union. In addition, based on the experience of European countries, it might be easier to start the integration within a limited number of participants, which satisfy the required convergence criteria. Later, more countries may enter the monetary union.

Prospects for Monetary Integration of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia

Taking into account the experience of the European Union, we note the need for close trade and technological relations, as well as a market type of economy, and unification of the legislation in the economic sphere. Some of these elements of monetary integration are observed within the CU. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, economies of the former Soviet states switched to paths of market reforms. In addition, the CU countries have rather close trade relations; they have restored the old and created new means of communication. At the same time, there is a weak degree of diversification of exports and imports. A large part of export and import are represented by raw materials.

The second important point of the monetary integration is the comparability by size of the emerging economies. In the framework of the Customs Union, Russia is the only leader. Harmonization of relations between the alliance partners would be easier in the case of smaller countries coordinating their efforts, which would allow them to defend their interests along with the large member-states.

Finally, obligatory condition of monetary integration is the fulfillment of convergence indicators (certain values of macroeconomic indicators) by all association members. In Luzgina (2013b), we compare a range of such indicators, as based on the experience of the European Union. We use indicators such as the inflation rate, public debt, budget deficit, and the dynamics of exchange rates for comparison. The study reveals that the main differences lie in the monetary indicators, namely the rate of inflation and exchange rate. In addition, there are certain differences in the structure of the economy and the share of private ownership in GDP.

Figure 1. Exchange Rate (average for a year), as % of the previous year
Figure 2. Industrial Producer Price Index (average for a year), as % of the previous year
Source: Data of the Interstate Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth of the Independent State

The persistence of significant differences in the values of convergence indicators at the macro level makes a full-fledged monetary union highly unlikely in the short term, even within the framework of the three most economically integrated states. At the same time, it is appropriate to consider the option of monetary integration in its mild form, i.e. in the form of monetary integration on the basis of a single unit of account. A single unit of account is usually calculated on the basis of the basket of national currencies, and is mostly used for international payments and credits.

The attractiveness of monetary integration in the form of monetary union on the basis of a supranational unit of account is motivated; first of all, by the preservation of the economic sovereignty of all countries. Circulation of the unit of account would take place in parallel with national currencies. Member states would retain the possibility of implementation of independent monetary and fiscal policies. Furthermore, the unit of account may fulfill the role of a training tool. The supranational payment unit can be used on the national level. Using this unit of account, legal entities may carry out transactions and individuals may hold their savings. It can also be actively implemented in the inter-state calculations. A part of gold and forex reserves of member countries can be held in the supranational unit of account. Inter-state loans can be issued in this unit as well. This type of monetary union would reveal the feasibility of further deepening of integration in the monetary sphere and determine the timing of the formation of a full-fledged monetary union. In case of serious problems, the dismantling of the currency union will not cause major adverse changes in national economies, unlike in the case of a collapse of a monetary union with a single currency. In addition, the operation of a single unit of account allows for the anticipation of potential problems associated with the functioning of economies under a single monetary system, and a solution before the introduction of a supranational currency.

Last, but not least, this form of integration seems to be a relatively feasible option as the process of convergence on the territory of the CU countries in the monetary sphere has already begun. There is an increased use of national currencies in bilateral trade, harmonization of national legislation is taking place in the monetary sphere, and international agreements in the monetary sphere are ratified. These activities are gradually building a base for the realization of the monetary integration project of the union countries.


Economic and monetary integration allows the countries to get the maximum benefit from mutual cooperation. However, the deepening of the integration process is usually accompanied by certain difficulties. Convergence of economic systems requires transformation of economic institutions, changes in legislation and principles of management, all of which are costly to achieve. The better the preliminary harmonization is performed, the easier the process of adaptation of national economies to function within a particular economic and monetary union will be.

The post-Soviet countries are implementing several projects of economic integration. However, their economies have major differences according to a number of macroeconomic indicators. The greatest degree of convergence is reached only by three CIS states, namely Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. Rather high level of economic integration, as well as a continuation of the process of unification and harmonization of national economies allows us to study the feasibility of realizing the lightweight form of a monetary integration based on a single supranational unit of account on the territories of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.


  • Butorina O.V. International currencies: integration and competition / O.V. Butorina.- Мoscow.: Publishing house  “Delovaia literatura”, 2003.- 368 p.
  • Chapligin V.G.  Theory and methodology of currency alliance  formation/ V.G. Chapligin –  St. Petersburg.: Publishing house SPbGUAF, 2003.- 193 p.
  • Drobishevski S.M., Polevoi D.E. The problems of creating a single monetary zone in the CIS countries / S.M  Drobishevski, D. I. Polevoi – Мoscow.: EAPP,- 2004. – 152 p.
  • Euro – a baby of Mandell? The theory of optimum currency areas: collection of papers: translation from English.- Мoscow.: Delo, 2002.- 368 p.
  • European monetary union: transition, international impact and policy options/ edited by Paul J.J. Welfens.- Berlin.- Springer.- 1997.-470 p.
  • Eurasian Economic Community on-line database [Electronic resource]- Moscow.- 2005.- Mode of access: www.evrazes.com.- Date of access: 17.02.2012
  • Evstigneev V.R. Currency and finance integration in EU and CIS. Comparative semantic analysis. /V.R. Evstigneev -М.: Наука.- 1997.—271 p.
  • International monetary fund on-line database [Electronic resource] – Washington.- Mode of access: www.imf.org.- Date of access: 07.11.2012
  • Kondratov D.I. Finantial integration: international experience and perspectives of CIS countries development/D.I. Kondratov// Economic Journal of HSE.- 2012.- №1.- p. 105-142.
  • Luzgina A.N. Prospects of economic and monetary integration of the CIS member states/ A.N. Luzgina // Bank Bulletin Magazine. – 2013a.-№ 19 (600).- p. 21-26.
  • Luzgina A.N.  Model of monetary integration involving the Republic of Belarus / A.N. Luzgina // Bank Bulletin Magazine. – 2013b.-№ 20 (601).- p. 39-46.
  • Mandell R. A theory of optimum currency areas/  R. Mundell// Interntional economics [Electronic resource].- New York: Macmillan.- 1968.- Mode of access: http://www.columbia.edu/~ram15/ie/ie-12.html.  – Date of access: 23.05.2013.
  • Monetary unions: theory, history, public choice/ edited by Forrest H. Capie and Geoffrey E. Wood.- London: Routledge, 2003.- 198 p.
  • Statistical Committee of CIS on-line database [Electronic resource] – Мoscow, 2013.- Mode of access: www.cisstat.com.- Date of access: 03.09.2012
  • Struk T.  Concepts of reforming the world currency system/ Т. Struk// Bank Bulletin Magazine- 2012.-№16 [561].- p.7-14.
  • World Bank on-line database [Electronic resource].- 2013.- Mode of access: http://worldbank.org.- Date of access: 27.06.2013

[1] Chapligin V.G.  Theory and methodology of currency alliance formation/ V.G. Chapligin –  St. Petersburg.: Publishing house SPbGUAF, 2003.- 193 p.

The Customs Union Between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan: Some Evidence from the New Tariff Rates and Trade Flows

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Author: Arevik Mkrtchyan, European University Institute.

This brief addresses the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan that was established in 2010. It argues that the external tariff schedule reflects a compromise between the interests of its members rather than simple expansion of Russian influence on the CU partners, and that the reduction in trade costs due to elimination of internal borders, benefits both the members of the CU and their external trade partners. Moreover, the impact of alleviated non-tariff trade costs on trade flows is strong and significant, while the tariff impact is insignificant for all members.

Preferences for Redistribution in Post-Communist Countries

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Public attitudes toward inequality and the demand for redistribution can often play an import role in terms of shaping social policy. The literature on determinants of the demand for redistribution, both theoretical and empirical, is extensive (e.g., Meltzer and Richard 1981, Alesina and Angelotos 2005).  Usually, due to data limitations, transition countries are usually considered to be a homogeneous group in empirical papers on the demand for redistribution. However, new data on transition countries allow us to look more deeply into the variation within this group, and to look at which factors are likely to play a significant role in shaping a society’s preferences over redistribution.

The data we use are from the second round of the EBRD and WB Life in Transition Survey (LiTS) (EBRD Transition Report 2011). This is a survey of nationally representative samples consisting of at least 1000 individuals in each of the 29 transition countries.[1] In addition, and for comparison purposes, this survey also covers Turkey, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and UK. Furthermore, in six of the countries surveyed – Poland, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and UK – the sample consists of 1500 individuals.

Redistribution is, in general, a complex issue, which can take various forms and rely on different mechanisms. In this policy brief, we will only focus on two forms of public attitudes towards redistribution. The first is direct income redistribution from the rich to the poor and public preferences for or against this form of redistribution. The second is indirect redistribution through the provision of public goods, some of which favor certain groups of population over others. In particular, we will consider preferences over extra government spending allocations in the areas of education, healthcare, pensions, housing, environment and public infrastructure. Generally, we would like to explore in greater detail to what extent there are differences across countries in terms of public preferences over redistribution and what might explain differences both within and across societies.

Both survey rounds include questions regarding public preferences towards income redistribution, direct (from the rich to the poor) and indirect (through government spending towards certain public goods). Data for exploring public preferences for direct redistribution can be obtained from a question in the survey that asks respondents to score from 1 to 10 whether they prefer more income inequality or less. More specifically, in the LiTS 2010, the question is the following:

Q 3.16a “How would you place your views on this scale: 1 means that you agree completely with the statement on the left “Incomes should be made more equal”; 10 means that you agree with the statement on the right “We need larger income differences as incentives for individual effort”; and if your views fall somewhere in between, you can choose any number in between?

Note, however, that we use the reverse of this so that 10 represents greater equality and 1 represents wider differences. Bearing this in mind, figure 1 shows the average scores for redistribution preferences for a selection of the countries for 2010 and shows a sizeable variation ranging from 4.4 (more inequality) in Bulgaria to 7.87 (greater equality) in Slovenia. The mean for Russia is 6.92.

The data also allows for a comparison to be made between these preferences in transition countries and in the developed economies covered in the survey. For instance, Russians are on average close to Germans in their preferences for redistribution, while Estonians and Belarusians prefer less redistribution and are closer to the British, on average.

Figure 1. Preferences for Direct Redistribution

Indirect measures of attitudes towards redistribution can add further depth to these societies’ preferences. In particular, the indirect measures in the 2010 survey are derived from a question that asks respondents to rate from 1 to 7 their first priorities for extra government spending.

Q 3.05a “In your opinion, which of these fields should be the first priority for extra government spending: Education; Healthcare; Housing; Pensions; Assisting the poor; Environment (including water quality); Public infrastructures (public transport, roads, etc.); Other (specify)”?

The country averages for these indirect measures for 2010 are presented in Figure 2. The graph reveals a sizeable cross-country variation. For instance, 43.5% of respondents in Mongolia preferred channeling extra government money to education, while 48.7% of respondents in Armenia selected higher healthcare spending. Almost 39% of respondents in Azerbaijan chose assistance to the poor as the first priority for government spending, while the corresponding figure was only 8.3% in Bulgaria and 4% in the Czech Republic. More than 34% of the Russians choose healthcare as their first priority, another 20% choose education, 15% would like the money to be channeled to housing, 14.5% to pensions, 11% to support the poor, 3% to support environment, and only 2% to public infrastructure (2010).

These numbers highlight that there are sizeable differences across the transition countries regarding preferences for redistribution. Also, regarding the form of indirect redistribution in terms of preferences over how government budgets should be prioritized and allocated. Several groups of factors or determinants are typically listed in academic literature to help explain what drives public preferences over the degree and form of redistribution. In the first group of factors, there are various determinants at the individual level. Within the group of individual determinants, self-interest or rational choice of a degree of redistribution favorable to the individual with usual (individual) preferences are stressed. Alternatively, motives behind a preference for redistribution can be related to social preferences (preferences for justice or equity) and reciprocity. Within this general group of self-interest, attitudes towards risks can be stressed as a crucial factor behind demands for social insurance and hence for indirect forms of redistribution. Individuals’ prospects of upward mobility, expectations about their future welfare or ‘tunnel effect’ in shaping their views and preferences over redistribution are also underlined. Also, the commonly held beliefs about the causes of prosperity and poverty are considered to be important in shaping the public’s attitudes under the umbrella of social preferences.

The literature covers possible institutional determinants for preferences towards redistribution and emphasizes the role of the level of inequality in a society and typically relates to the median voter hypothesis in democracies.  It is also stressed that welfare regimes (liberal, conservative) can play a role in shaping the level of public support for redistribution.

Figure 2. Preferences for Indirect Redistribution

A closer examination of the data and estimates of the factors shaping individuals preferences over redistribution in the 2010 survey, are consistent with motives involving strong self-interests of the respondents.[2] Those from richer households have less support for redistribution, with the result being robust to the measure of household income used. The past trend in household income positions is insignificant, while the higher the expected income position of household in the coming four years, the less supportive the respondents are of income redistribution (elasticity -0.1). Those who experienced severe hardships with the recent crisis tend to support redistribution more than those who had little problems or not at all (elasticity 0.13).

Furthermore, the role of preferences towards uncertainty is confirmed: the higher the (self-reported) willingness to take risks, the less likely the individual is to support or favor redistribution. Respondents with tertiary education are less inclined to support redistribution of income from the rich to the poor, compared to those with secondary education (elasticity is -0.4). Having a successful experience with business start-ups also decreases demand for income redistribution from the rich to the poor (elasticity -0.3). Those living in rural areas are more in favor of redistribution compared to metropolitan areas, while living in urban areas shows the same level of support for redistribution as those living in metropolitan areas. In each of these cases, it appears that those who would benefit the most from redistribution favor it more than those who view it as coming at their expense, or possible expense in the future.

Beliefs regarding the origins of success and poverty are also shown to be statistically significant and negative, as predicted: those who believe effort and hard work or intelligence and skills are the major factors for success are less supportive of income redistribution (elasticity -0.16). Those who consider laziness and lack of will power the major factors for people’s lack of success are also, consistently, less supportive of redistribution (elasticity -0.2).

It also turns out that better democratic institutions are correlated with a higher demand for redistribution. The result is robust across the measures used, i.e. it does not seem to depend on the particular measure used. The size of the effect is quite pronounced: a one standard deviation increase in the democracy measure increases demand for redistribution from 16 percentage points, when the voice and accountability measure is used, to 33 and 36 percentage points when controls of the executives and democracy index are used.

Furthermore, the better the governance institutions, as measured by the rule of law and control of corruption indexes, the higher is the demand for redistribution. However, the result is not robust to the various measures used. Government effectiveness appears to be insignificant (though with a positive direction), and the regulatory quality measure is insignificant but with a negative direction. The size of the effects is again quite pronounced. A one standard deviation increase in the rule of law measure increases demand for redistribution by 17 percentage points, and a one standard deviation increase in the control of corruption measure increases demand for redistribution by 27 percentage points.

The higher the level of inequality, the larger is the demand for redistribution as might be expected. This result is robust across all measures used. The size of the effect varies from 16 to 18 percentage points in response to a one standard deviation increase.

A regression analysis of preferences towards indirect redistribution also shows that self-interest motives are very pronounced, but there are traces of social preferences as well. In particular, younger people (age 18-24) would like to have more subsidized education and housing at the expense of healthcare and pensions in comparison with the age 35-44 reference group. Those in the age 25-34 group would like to redistribute public spending to housing and environment at the expense of education, pensions and public infrastructure. Respondents in the age 45-54 group would also like to redistribute additional spending from education but to pensions. The two groups of older people (age 55-64 and 65+) would like to shift extra spending from education and housing to healthcare and pensions. The group of age 65+ would also like to shift money from assistance to the poor.

Respondents with tertiary education (in comparison with holders of a secondary degree) favor extra spending for education, environment and public infrastructure at the expense of healthcare, pensions and assisting to the poor, thus revealing additional elements of social motivations. Respondents with primary education, when compared to holders of secondary degree, would like to redistribute public money from education to pensions and assistance to the poor. Respondents with poor health favor additional spending on healthcare and pensions at the expense of education.

High skilled (in terms of occupational groups) respondents would like to redistribute public money from pensions to education. Those with market relevant experience of being successful in setting up a business tend to support education and public infrastructure at the expense of housing and pensions, though the result lack statistical power.

Respondents from households with higher income support extra spending for education, environment and public infrastructure at the expense of healthcare, pensions and assistance to the poor; again pointing to the other elements of possible social motivations. Those with a self-reported positive past trend in income position tend to support spending extra money on the environment at the expense of assistance to the poor (the latter lacks statistical power). If the respondent lives in its own house or apartment, s/he tends to support redistribution from housing and assistance to the poor, to healthcare and pensions.

Respondents whose households were strongly affected by the crisis would like expenditure on environment and public infrastructure to be reduced. Those with higher self-reported willingness to take risks would redistribute extra public money to education at the expense of healthcare and housing.

Respondents who believe that success in life is mainly due to effort and hard work, intelligence and skills favor education at the expense of assistance to the poor and public infrastructure, suggesting they might view education as the key to escape poverty. Those who think that laziness and lack of willpower are the main factors behind poverty would, unsurprisingly, redistribute extra public money from assistance to the poor to healthcare.

Males (as compared to females) favor extra spending on education, housing, environment and public infrastructure at the expense of healthcare. The self-employed favor extra spending of public money to pensions at the expense of housing. There is no difference across respondents living in metropolitan, rural or urban locations.

A regression analysis shows that better democratic institutions are correlated with higher support for allocation of additional public spending to education and healthcare, environment and public infrastructure. The effects are larger for education and healthcare: one standard deviation in the democracy index increases the support for spending money on education by 3 percentage points, for healthcare by 3.1 percentage points, and only by 0.4 and 0.6 percentage points for environment and public infrastructure, respectively. This reallocation is at the expense of assistance to the poor (3.5 percentage points), housing (2.6 percentage points) and pensions (1.1 percentage points). The pattern is robust to the measure of democratic institutions used, though the marginal effects vary slightly depending on the measure.

The influence of governance institutions is similar. Respondents in countries with better governance institutions favor allocation of extra public money to education (3.2 percentage points in response to one standard deviation in government effectiveness), health care (2.9 percentage points), environment (0.9 percentage points) and public infrastructure (0.6 percentage points). The reallocation is at the expense of assistance to the poor (4.2 percentage points), housing (3.3 percentage points) and pensions (0.2 percentage points). The pattern is also robust to the measure of governance institutions with the marginal effects varying slightly depending on the measure.

The higher the level of inequality in a country, the higher the demand for spending extra public money for education at the expense of assistance to the poor, pensions and public infrastructure. A one standard deviation increase in the index, increases demand for spending extra public money on education by 3.8 percentage points, and decreases spending on assistance to the poor by 2 percentage points, pensions by 1.9 percentage points, and public infrastructure by 0.06 percentage points. The results are robust to the inequality measure used.

Overall, the analysis provides empirical evidence that transitional countries are not homogeneous with respect to preferences for redistribution, with sizeable variations in country averages and in public preferences. The study of individual determinants of preferences for redistribution confirms a dominant role of self-interest, with some indications of social sentiments as well. In addition to the usual measures used in individual level analysis, these data allow better control for both positive and negative personal and household experience. The study of institutional determinants also confirms the role of income inequality in shaping public attitudes. In particular, higher inequality is confirmed to increase the demand for direct income redistribution. A novel motive of the paper is the influence of democracy and governance institutions on demand for redistribution. Better democracy and governance institutions are likely to stimulate demand for income redistribution, revealing both higher societal demand for redistribution and appreciation of the potential capability of the government to implement redistribution effectively.

The study of individual determinants of indirect demand for redistribution adds to the overall picture and confirms not only the self-interest motives but also social preferences especially pronounced among people with tertiary education and in high income groups. Better democratic and governance institutions stimulate redistribution of public money towards education, healthcare, environment and public infrastructure, while weaker democratic and governance institutions increases demand for allocation of public money to assistance to the poor, housing and pensions.


Meltzer, A., Richards, S., 1981. “A Rational Theory of the Size of Government”. Journal of Political Economy 1989, 914–927.

Alesina, A., Angeletos, G.M., 2005. “Fairness and Redistribution”. The American Economic Review, 95(4), 960-98

[1] The countries covered were: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, FYROM, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

[2] The basic empirical equation to study individual determinants of public preferences towards income redistribution is the OLS with country fixed effects (for direct redistribution) and multinomial regression with country fixed effects (for indirect measures). When studying the influence of institutions, the equations are transformed to replace country fixed effects with an institutional measure (one at a time). To control for the basic economic differences, average GDP per capita was included.

Fact or Fiction? The Reversal of the Gender Education Gap Across the World and the Former Soviet Union

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In this policy brief, I discuss the reversal of the gender education gap in many countries around the world – a fact that is still not widely known, although is increasingly gaining attention. I describe recent studies that have documented this fact for both developed and developing countries and have provided evidence on the trend. As there has not been much analysis of the education gap in the former Soviet Union countries, I present some measures of the education gap in the USSR and FSU countries, and compare them to other countries around the world. Finally, I discuss the potential causes of the reversal identified in the literature and how the reversal of the gap is related to other gender disparities.