Population, living standards and well-being, 1949–1989

Bas van Leeuwen, Peter Foldvari

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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Our main goal in this chapter to find out how much the state-socialist regimes of Europe managed to fulfill their promises, and in which respect they failed. To this end we apply a multi-perspective approach, looking at main dimensions of welfare and well-being being as proposed in the literature (i.e. demographic trends, human capital and income). In Section 2 we review the main demographic tendencies: fertility, mortality and migration. Section 3 focuses on the two principle components of human capital: health and education. We show that, after initial success in public health, socialism was not able to maintain its complex health system, and mortality rates started to increase in the mid-1960s.

In section 4 we deal with the inability of socialist regimes and their centrally planned economies to achieve a convergence with Western Europe in terms of income. Finally, in Section 5 we offer an overview of the main tendencies with the composite indicator Human Development Index (HDI). We also look at alternative indicators that can capture the general mental state of citizens in these regimes, namely mortality due to hypertension and alcohol consumption. In Section 6 we summarize our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Economic History of Central, East and South-East Europe: 1800 to the Present
EditorsMatthias Morys
Place of PublicationOxon and New York
ISBN (Electronic)9781315686097
ISBN (Print)9781138921986
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Eastern Europe
  • living standards
  • socialism
  • popuation
  • income
  • happiness


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