MPIDR Working Paper
Non-marital births in East Germany after unification
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2001-027, 40 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (August 2001)
Revised October 2002
published as "Women´s Employment and Non-Marital Childbearing: A Comparison between East and West Germany in the 1990s" in: Population (57)2: 331-358
In comparison to other European countries, West Germany displays relatively low rates of non-marital childbearing. Since the 1960, there has been a postponement of first birth, an increase in the age at first marriage and an increase in childlessness. Nevertheless, childbearing and marriage remained strongly coupled. In the former East Germany, on the other hand, non-marital childbearing was relatively high compared to other European countries and particularly compared to West Germany. In 1989, the ratio of non-marital births had reached 33 percent. Overwhelmingly, researchers blamed GDR policies for high non-marital birth rates. However, after the breakdown of the GDR regime, the high East German non-marital birth rates did not rebound to West German levels but they sky-rocked, reaching 50 percent in 1999. Using data from the German micro-census of the year 1997, we investigate the hypothesis that high nonmarital births reflect a high labor market orientation among East German women with children. Our empirical results reveal two different patterns in East and West Germany. While in the West a high labor market orientation is indeed related to lower marriage risks, we find the reversed pattern in East Germany. East German women with a college degree and/ or women who have a relatively higher educational attainment than their male partners are more likely to get married when they have children.