March 31, 2003 | Press Release

Non-marital births in eastern Germany in the 1990s - old habits or new family models?

In western Germany, age at first birth and age at marriage have risen since the 1960s, and childlessness has increased dramatically. These two demographic events - marriage and birth of a first child - are, however, still intimately connected. In contrast, the proportion of out-of-wedlock births in the former East Germany was around 33 per cent in 1989. Since socio-political incentives for having children out of wedlock were eliminated with the adoption of the western German system, it was expected that the western German pattern of "child-oriented marriages" would take effect in eastern Germany as well. However, the percentage of people not marrying continued to rise in eastern Germany throughout the 1990s.

With the help of data from the German Micro-Census and the Family Survey of the German Youth Institute we look into the question of whether non marital childbearing in eastern Germany is the result of out-dated GDR patterns of family formation (from communist times) or whether they represent a modernisation of family forms. Above all, we attempt to discover whether that fact that comparatively fewer eastern German couples with children are married has anything to do with the higher rate of employment among women. Our results indicate two different patterns in eastern and western Germany. In the west it is women with a higher level of education and a higher likelihood to be employed who are less apt to be married. In eastern Germany we find no such connections.

About the MPIDR

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock investigates the structure and dynamics of populations. The Institute’s researchers explore issues of political relevance, such as demographic change, aging, fertility, and the redistribution of work over the life course, as well as digitization and the use of new data sources for the estimation of migration flows. The MPIDR is one of the largest demographic research bodies in Europe and is a worldwide leader in the study of populations. The Institute is part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research organization.

Publications on this topic:

Konietzka, D. and M. R. Kreyenfeld: Neue Familienformen im konservativen Wohlfahrtsstaat? Der Zusammenhang von Eheschließung und Familiengründung in Ost- und Westdeutschland. In: J. Allmendinger (ed.), Entstaatlichung und soziale Sicherheit, 31. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie, Kongressband II (CD-ROM) (2003 / in print).

Konietzka, D. and M. R. Kreyenfeld: Nichteheliche Geburten in Ostdeutschland in den 90er Jahren - Alte Gewohnheiten oder neue Familienformen? In: Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (ed.): Materialien zur Bevölkerungswisssenschaft (2003 / in print).

Konietzka, D. and M. R. Kreyenfeld: Women's employment and non-marital childbearing: a comparison between East and West Germany in the 1990s. Population (English edition) 57(2002)2, 331-358.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.