Population, living standards and well-being since 1989

Peter Foldvari, Bas van Leeuwen

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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The transition from state-socialism to a democratic, political and market-based economic system, even though it started more than 25 years ago, is still a relatively recent phenomenon in Eastern Europe. Consequently, opinions on its final success and the effect of this transition on welfare are still subject of politically influenced debates. This requires historians to exercise caution and stick to measurable facts and statistically proven tendencies to an even greater extent than usual.

In section 2 we review the main demographic tendencies of in post-communist countries. Here we find large regional differences. Former Soviet republics and South-East European countries experienced an increase in mortality, while the Central European post-communist countries rather converged to the mortality patterns of the West. Birth rates reduced in the whole region, partly as result of the second stage of demographic transition, but also due to the transition crisis. Finally, the migration patterns from the post-communist countries to the wealthier market economies continued even after the change of system.
In section 3, we discuss how the population is characterized by differential standards of living during and after the transition away from state socialism.

The various aspects of well-being, that is human capital (health and education), and income, are dealt with consecutively in sections 3 and 4. The basic finding is that in various countries the system moved towards a more Western-oriented situation. In terms of population growth this caused a clear decline, while in terms of well-being there was some catching up. This was counteracted, however, by rising inequality both within and between countries. Indeed, as is argued in section 5, even though happiness was increasing after the transition, the gap in happiness between various countries in Eastern Europe increased. We end with a brief conclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Economic History of Central, East and South-East Europe: 1800 to the Present
Place of PublicationOxon and New York
ISBN (Electronic)9781315686097
ISBN (Print)9781138921986
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Eastern Europe
  • transition
  • living standards
  • population
  • income
  • happiness


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