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Via the Moscow Times , we learn that Russian President Vladimir Putin has hired ’90s icons Boyz II Men to perform at a concert series promoting higher birthrates:

President Vladimir Putin’s crusade to raise the country’s birth rate is set to get the support of three powerful voices on its behalf.

A baritone and two tenors, that is.

The stylish trio of Boyz II Men, the most successful R&B group of all time, is coming to Moscow on Feb. 6. The group will perform a selection of their classic and new romantic ballads, hopefully giving Russian men some inspiration ahead of St. Valentine’s Day.

One assumes that the aim of the concert is to help childbearing seem more appealing among Russians who take their cues from popular culture. I doubt, though, that it will be even narrowly helpful.

As R. R. Reno has observed in these pages , rates of childbearing are strongly correlated with religious observance. Religious observance, in turn, is correlated with income. Putin seems to understand the first of these two points, and has been just as willing to enlist the Russian church in advancing his aims as he has Boyz II Men.

One hopes these arrangements will prove beneficial for all parties, but the fact remains that people who are unable to save and plan for the future will be unable to form families. And families with precarious finances are unlikely to desire more children. Any discussion of Russia’s demographic prospects must begin with the fact that its economy is facing very slow growth :

Russia’s economy grew slower than analysts forecast last year, expanding at the weakest pace since a 2009 contraction after record oil prices failed to offset $56.8 billion of net capital outflows and investment sagged.

Gross domestic product expanded 3.4 percent in 2012, down from 4.3 percent a year earlier, the Federal Statistics Service in Moscow said in an e-mailed statement today. That missed the 3.6 percent median forecast of 18 analysts in a Bloomberg survey and the Economy Ministry’s estimate of 3.5 percent.

Putin has been pressuring his central bank to ease interest rates. Despite his strongman image, he hasn’t succeeded thus far.

A problem Putin has been less eager to acknowledge is capital flight. In 2012, some $56 billion poured out of Russia, part of a years-long outflow that Alexander Morozov of HSBC Moscow has attributed to “domestic businesspeople sending their money out of the country, either to avoid corruption or because they have no place to invest it here.”

If Putin really wants to raise Russia’s birthrate, then, he should start by battling corruption and fostering open, transparent markets. Boyz II Men can come second.

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