Ukraine’s refugee crisis is a demographic crisis, too

Putin’s war against Ukraine is a grotesque atrocity and a crime against humanity. This is one aspect of it.

The rate at which people are fleeing Putin’s war in Ukraine is astounding. According to UN estimates, 2.2 million people entered neighboring countries in the first 14 days of the war. To help communicate the magnitude of this human tide, I made this figure, which shows the refugee population as a total number, and as a percentage of Ukraine’s prewar population. For comparison, I added some relevant data points from US cities and states. More people have fled Ukraine than live in Nebraska. In relative terms, it’s more than the population of Pennsylvania.

Update: The figure below is from March 8. I have updated it on this thread.

Of course, we have no idea how many of these refugees will return to Ukraine in the future, so the long term effect is unknowable. But I assume as more of the country they have left behind is demolished, the less likely they are to return.

Unlike some other refugee crises, the vast majority of people leaving Ukraine right now are women and children, as most adult men are prohibited from leaving due to military conscription and many old people have been unable or unwilling to leave.

These numbers are estimated, but Save the Children has reported that half the refugees are children. In the context of Ukraine’s prewar demographic situation, this is catastrophic. According to US Census Bureau estimates, only 19% of Ukraine’s population is under age 18. That’s 8.3 million of the country’s 43.5 million people.

If one-half of the 2.2 million refugees are children, that’s 1.1 million, which is 13% of the Ukraine’s children. This is two weeks in, with no end in sight.

Before the war, Ukraine already had one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, with a projected average of 1.23 children per woman and falling.

I am pretty sure the world has never seen a war between two countries with such low fertility rates (Russia’s is 1.5). The causes and consequences of this aspect of the war remain to be seen, but will be important to understand.

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