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­­­Social policy development: target groups and priorities

Priority areas of development: economics
Department: Laboratory of Public Sector Economic Research
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The project continues the study "Social protection: target groups and priorities" that was performed in the Laboratory for Economic Research in Public Sector in 2016.  Therefore it advances the study of vulnerable social groups and certain human activities that require special attention from authorities engaged in social policy development.

Goal of research: to study opportunities for improving public policy in the sphere of social assistance and health protection for target population groups. Following this goal four main objectives were set and worked out to complement each other:

  • Identification of target population groups requiring social support, analysis of their characteristics and living standards;
  • Identification of factors associated with charitable giving among different social groups;
  • Econometric analysis of individual characteristics responsible for the standard of living of targeted social groups of the population;
  • Development of recommendations for the social policy regarding identified target groups.

Methodology:  We have studied related literature containing theoretical and practical aspects of poverty identification and social support of the population. Poverty level was estimated using Leiden definition. Empirical estimation of the main factors of well-being of families with children, including single mothers was performed using econometric methods. Additionally, the differences in the packages of children's allowances paid in the regions to families with children up to the age of one year and a half were estimated.  We have developed a toolkit for the experimental evaluation of the discrimination against older job applicants. A descriptive analysis of the factors associated with physical activity and overweight and its consequences has been conducted. The effectiveness of alcohol policy was estimated. The analysis of factors and causes of individual charity giving was performed using descriptive and econometric methods.

Empirical base of research: Empirical data for research was taken from different sources: Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS HSE) (http://www.hse.ru/science/rlms); The Federal State Statistical Service (Rosstat); Levada Center surveys conducted in 2011, 2016, and 2017, and official documents from regional governments on regional expenditures on social programs.

Results of research:

We find that the list of socially vulnerable groups is much broader than the traditional list of those eligible for social protection. Estimates of subjective (self-assessed) poverty are significantly higher than the "official" level of poverty in the country. Problems of health in terms of its potential deterioration due to unhealthy lifestyles can be common for about half of the adult population.

Among the social groups that are in the most disadvantaged position from the perspective of subjective poverty we find women on maternity or parental leave more often than other categories. The packages of child allowances for children up to the age of one year and a half provided in Russian regions appear to be highly differentiated. Thus they only deepen the regional inequality, and do not have a significant impact on the poverty level. Particularly difficult is the situation of single-parent families, where the child is most often brought up by a mother. Single mothers are characterized by worse health, lower incomes, and often assess their financial situation as poverty. And although in general they are more likely to work compared to mothers from full families, the presence of children under 7 years becomes an obstacle to employment for many of them.

The unhealthy lifestyle of the Russian population is an essential element of the quality of life in general, as it affects both health and working capacity. Even in the youngest group of the population, physical activity is not common enough compared to developed countries. Moreover, it largely decreases with age and marriage. Overweight becomes a problem for both women and men after reaching middle age. Overweight usually appears due to combination of low physical activity and unhealthy diet. We find that almost half of the population considers their nutrition to be correct, regardless of weight. In turn, excess weight is strongly correlated with poor self-esteem of health, higher frequency of hospitalizations and sick leaves, with higher individual expenses for medical treatment. For working people, sports and nutrition in the workplace are positively related to the probability of normal weight. Unhealthy lifestyles of Russian population are characterized by high level of alcohol intake. This research has demonstrated that public alcohol policy could be efficient if applied consistently according to growing population incomes and price index. 

Older people, while becoming more active in the labor market during recent decades, face different types of age discrimination - not only in earnings, but also in hiring. Estimates of such discrimination in other countries and the work of Russian sociologists suggest that age discrimination in hiring exists in Russia. To assess this discrimination, a special tool for experimental research is proposed.

The analysis of individual charity giving as a mechanism of social support, able to supplement public social assistance, revealed main factors and popular causes of donations. We find that donations to NGOs are less popular than providing assistance to individuals. Involvement in religion activities and higher self-assessed income are two factors, which contribute most to the probability of donating. Educated and younger donors are more likely to donate to NGOs compared to donating to particular people/families. Individual donations are mainly aimed at supporting the poor or unhealthy; private donations are mostly spontaneous.

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

The research findings can be applied in the development of state social policy towards targeted population groups. The findings confirm the need to improve social support for families with children, simplify and better target social benefits. Special attention should be given to single-parents, families with newborns and children of preschool age. The results of the project confirm the need for a more active policy in the sphere of healthy lifestyle, in particular, for the groups of the population inclined to overweight and obesity, as well as the consistent implementation of the anti-alcohol measures, especially those that have proved to be effective in Russia. Individual charity in Russia, with the appropriate state support, could become an additional mechanism for poverty reduction.


Kossova T. V., Kossova E. V., Sheluntcova M. Alcohol consumption and individual time preferences of Russians // International Review of Economics. 2017. Vol. 64. No. 1. P. 47-85. doi
Колосницына М. Г., Филиппова А. В. Детские пособия и бедность в России // Экономическая политика. 2017. Т. 12. № 4. С. 118-153. doi
Kolosnitsyna M., Khorkina N., Volkov A. Alcohol Policies and Crime Rates in Russian Regions / NRU HSE. Series WP BRP Series "Public and Social Policy". 2017. No. WP BRP 11/PSP/2017.