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Crisis makes Russians More Equal

Crisis makes Russians More Equal
Delyagin Michael 06.05.2009

According to Levada centre, there were serious enough changes in a standard of well-being of the Russians in I quarter of 2009.

It's a surprise but the share of beggars (people who do not have enough money even for foodstuff) practically has not grown. Having reached in October, 2008 historical minimum in 9%, in March it made only 10%.

Crisis influence showed itself in other things: in sufficient increase of share of poor people (who have enough money for foodstuff but not for clothes). Their share was minimum in July, 2008 - 22%; in September it grew up to 25%, while in march it became 31% (the figure is higher than before - default level in 1998).

The share of least poor (who have money for meal and clothes but not for durable goods) decreased as a result of crisis insignificantly: from historical maximum in September in 49% to 45% in March.

"Middle class" share (which representatives have money for purchase of durable goods but not for buying of cars; it is middle class on a consumption level but not on its model and psychotype) maximum in July, 2008 - 19% - in March was stabilized on 14% (for comparison: July, 1998 - 7%, July, 2000 - 3%).

Direct social results of crisis consist in decrease of share of "middle class" on 5% (more than on a quarter), small (2%) reduction of share of least poor and sharp growth due to it of share of the poorest - 9% (or in 1,4 times).

Despite of preservation of share of beggars at former level conditions of their life (as well as of the poorest) worsened rather seriously. So, 34% of that category of population considerably worsened character of their food for last 3-4 months (in comparison with last March), 10% from them started to buy less flour, groats and macaroni, 33% - less confectionery products, 38% - meat and meat products, 41% - fruit. Thus, poverty and crisis provide return to traditional imperfect food patterns with overabundance of groats, flour, sweet and shortage of fruit.

As a whole 9% of the Russians at the end of March noticed that for last 3-4 months they began  to eat much worse; besides 34% of beggars it influenced 14% of the poorest, 4% of least poor and didn't influenced at all "middle class".

It is interesting that "middle class", as against the others, aspires to healthy food pattern: if to economize, first of all it could be done on sweets (3%), only then on meat (2%) and the last thing on fruit (1%) which the Russians traditionally consume insufficiently.

At the end of March 29% of the Russians declared that last 2-3 months, as a rule, they buy cheaper meal and articles of prime necessity, than earlier. There are 57% of such among poor, the poorest - 41%, least poor - 17% and "middle class" - 10%.

It's indicative of the change of structure of consumer behaviour of the Russians: the poorest come nearer to the behaviour to beggars, least poor (who have money for clothes but not for durable goods) - to "middle class".

In the process of crisis deepening pessimism naturally grows: in September, 2008 only 10% of the Russians expect worsening of financial position of their families, in December - 23% and in February - already 38%.

However pessimism increase is non-uniform in various consumer groups. Among poor and least poor pessimism was accruing smoothly, while "middle class" started understanding reality of its problems only in 2009. In September the share of pessimists made only 4%, in December - 8%; now it is clear whence hysterically optimistic official propaganda scooped confidence. However for I quarter 2009 share of pessimists among "middle class" jumped up in 4,5 times - from 8 to 36%! - it exceeded even similar indicator among least poor (33%). Possibly this bigger pessimism is connected both with less psychological stability, fear before comfort loss and also better comprehension of situation (both because of best erudition and usage of more developed communications).

Pessimism growth led to growth of uniformity of moods in various consumer groups; if in September rupture between specific shares of pessimists in groups - maximum and minimum - made 6,75 times, in December - 5 times, in March the rupture reduced only to one and a half times.

Thus, crisis undermining well-being of the Russians, depriving them of belief in future and compelling to reduce consumption even of necessary foodstuff reduces internal differentiation of a great bulk of population (accessible to a sight of sociologists). Thus "middle class" being violently pushed back into poverty which its representatives have escaped just recently - and as it thought for ever - is painfully than others undergoing falling of their social and material status.

Restoration of social unity of the population and its gradual transformation back into people capable let even under the pressure of hopelessness to understand its interests and at least to try to defend them could be seen behind human tragedies related to it.

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