First off, I should probably clarify something. As far as I can tell, Allen is a contrarian, not an apologist. For instance, he calculates that without the increased mortality and reduced fertility caused by Soviet collectivization -- he uses the word 'terrorist' to describe it -- the Soviet population would have been 27 million people larger in 1989. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Stalin. But Allen has something of AJP Taylor's willingness to tweak the nose of conventional wisdom, I think. Regarding the billion Russians: what Allen noticed was that Russian and Soviet raw birth rates matched Indian ones (barring the years of war, revolution, and collectivization, when drops were followed by rebounds) until the 1940s, when Soviet birth rates dropped and stayed down. Someone once quipped that the Soviet Union was just Upper Volta with rockets. Well, it did have Third World birth rates for a very long time. Allen took heroic amounts of old Russian and Soviet demographic data and analyzed them to determine what factors might be responsible for this drop. His results ended up being numerically rather similar to a fertility model T. Paul Schultz came up with after analyzing Third World fertility in the 1970s and 1980s, which is pretty neat, so I'll discuss it here.
Schultz's model is a simple (mostly) linear equation that relates a country's fertility rate, the average number of children born per woman, to its demographics. For instance, for every additional year of education the average woman has, that country's fertility rate is computed to drop by half a point. For every ten percent of a country's population that lives in cities, the fertility rate is computed to drop by a tenth of a point. For every ten percent of a country's population that still works on a farm, the fertility rate is computed to rise by two-tenths of a point. And so on. It's pretty good as these things go, and Allen found that it tracked Soviet fertility very well (again, barring the years of war, revolution, and collectivization). So Allen used Schultz's equation to break down the factors of Soviet fertility decline. Between 1928, the break-even year for the Soviet Union compared to prewar Tsarist Russia, and 1960, Soviet fertility declined by 3.41 children per woman, from 6.47 to 3.07 (rounding). Allen found that 1.62 of this drop could be explained by education, 1.00 by better diet, and 0.67 by the Soviet Union's economic transformation into a more urban society, the remaining 0.12 due to a decline in religion. Thus Allen concludes:
If the USSR had not followed this path -- if, for instance, industrialization and urbanization had proceeded less rapidly and if schooling had been expanded slowly and provided to men in preference to women -- then population growth would have been explosive. At the end of the twentieth century, the population would have approached one billion as in India, where urbanization has been limited and where most women remain illiterate.Since I know at least one reader will be interested, let me give you Schultz's fertility model as Allen gives it. Schultz's model predicts that the fertility rate will be close to: 5.79 + -0.551 * (the average number of years of female education) + 0.179 * (the average number of years of male education) + 0.517 * log10(the GDP per adult) + -0.0084 * (percent urban) + 0.019 * (percent labor force in agriculture) + 0.0115 * (percent Catholic) + 0.0239 * (percent Protestant) + 0.0119 * (percent Muslim) + -0.0035 * (calories per day) + 0.00000053 * (calories per day) ^ 2 Damn, that's ugly. Allen leaves out year-specific dummy variables and a statistically insignificant variable for family planning. Also, I have corrected what I believe to have been a numeric typo in the final coefficient; in the book it was 0.00053, which gives nonsensical results. Notice that increased wealth and male education increase the fertility rate. And yes, only those three religions are given; apparently both godless heathens and Orthodox Christians have little effect on fertility (though I suspect that Schultz's sample only had one Orthodox nation on its list, namely Ethiopia).