MPIDR Working Paper
The long-standing demographic East-West-divide in Germany
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2012-007, 32 pages (January 2012).
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Revised December 2012
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Keywords: German Empire, Germany, Germany/FRG, Germany/GDR, family formation, fertility, historical analysis, nuptiality, spatial analysis
Over the last decades numerous studies have dealt with demographic differences between the former communist eastern part of Germany and western Germany. Although the demography of these two regions has converged with respect to mortality and overall fertility levels, non-marital births are the norm in eastern Germany but the exception in western Germany. A number of explanations, stemming from the policy and socio-economic conditions of eastern and western Germany in recent decades, have been put forth. Here, we show that the divide in demographic behavior regarding fertility and marriage pre-dates the division of Germany into a communist east and (capitalist) west. Indeed, the areas in eastern Germany that formed the German Democratic Republic had in average roughly twice the level of non-marital fertility from at least since the middle of the 19th century. The persistence of the past suggests that explanations depending on current conditions are likely to be incomplete and that convergence, if it happens, will be a process lasting many decades or even centuries.