This paper investigates the fertility changes in three countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan) since 1980. Recalling the fertility trends in Central Asia (fertility transition, changes in the mean age at first marriage, etc.), this paper shows that the fertility drop in the 1990s is most certainly the product of childbearing postponement in the drastic post-Soviet socioeconomic context, and that the fertility increase observed in the early 2000s resulted from an increase of distinct birth orders, and also from ethnic differences in fertility behaviour.

This paper is based on a nationally representative survey available from the Demographic Health Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicators Cluster Surveys (MICS) and official data. The author first focuses on the socioeconomic decline (dramatic changes in living conditions, sharp increase in inequalities) that these countries endured following the end of the Soviet Union. Changes in the ethnic composition of Central Asia are presented as a key factor for understanding demographic changes. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to a redistribution of the ethnic composition of the populations of Central Asia and to a parity decline (decline of the share of Slavic-/European-origin populations in the Central Asian republics for example). The largest recovery of fertility rates in the 2000s occurred in those areas where the share of the indigenous population grew the most (Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic).

According to the results of this study, and arguing the importance of the population composition, the economic recovery that began in the 2000s partly explains the fertility behaviour of women of titular ethnicities in having an average of one child more than women of Russian origin. This well-documented paper opens a new door for explaining fertility changes at the upturn of the 2000s. It would have also been interesting, however, had the author stressed the demographic impact of the ‘baby boom’ in the 1980s in Central Asia, since it led to an increase of women of childbearing age in the 2000s and thus partly explains the rise of TFR in this period.

Sophie Hohmann, School of Advanced Studies for Social Sciences, Paris