The year 2020 point out the 30th anniversary of the reunification the West and also East Germany. German separation in 1949 right into the commonwealth Republic that Germany and the German autonomous Republic and also its reunification in 1990 market a unique setup of a quite unexpected introduction and discontinuation of a communist program in one component of a previously and afterwards unified country. However, this column suggests that this period of German history is no a completely straightforward ‘experiment’ native which come learn around the results of communism.

You are watching: What negative effects did east germany experience after reunification?




While society scientists have the right to run experiment to learn around the results of a broad selection of treatments, it is difficult to randomise political systems. Yet, knowledge the results of communism, democracy, and also autocracy on people’s resides is of an excellent importance. No surprisingly, over there is a vast literature trying out how political systems persistently influence the economy and populace preferences, with a details focus on different legacies between capitalist and also socialist societies (for a review, see Simpser et al. 2018). 

Studying persistent East–West differences after German division and reunification

German division and reunification has actually attracted the interest of countless social scientists as the seems rather close to an experimental setting. After WWII, two previously united components of the same country were assigned to 2 opposing politics regimes, a capitalist West and also a communist East. Reunification in 1990 lugged the two parts under the exact same political system once again. 

In state of all at once economic outcomes, revenue per capita did no differ widely between East and also West Germany before WWII (see Alesina and Fuchs-Schündeln 2007). However by the time east Germany collapsed, eastern German GDP every capita was less than half of the of West Germany. ~ reunification, labour productivity in eastern Germany was at a third of the west level, placing the east somewhere in between Mexico and Chile. The communist system had finished in financial failure.

Given important differences between the political and also economic equipment of West and also East Germany, a big literature has said that the communist experience had enduring impacts on the population in the East, consisting of their financial outcomes, politics attitudes, cultural traits, and also gender roles (e.g. Alesina and also Fuchs-Schündeln 2007, Campa and also Serafinelli 2019, Laudenbach et al. 2019, Goldfayn-Frank and Wohlfart 2020, Lippmann et al. 2020).

In a recent paper (Becker et al., forthcoming), us take a fresh look in ~ the German case. Were East and West indeed similar before world War II? go the war and the subsequent occupation affect the two components of the nation in the very same way? What around migration in between East and also West native 1945 until the building of the Berlin wall in 1961? and what does every this imply for our understanding of the effects of communism?

East Germany deserve to be spotted before it also existed

The place of the border in between the German democratic Republic (GDR) and also the federal Republic the Germany (FRG) is no the random outcome of where American, British, and Soviet tanks stopped at the finish of WWII in 1945. Instead, in anticipation that the defeat of Nazi Germany, the 3 allied pressures had i agreeed in 1944 on a department of post-WWII Germany right into Soviet and Western occupation zones that complied with the pre-WWII borders of the German realm states and the districts of the biggest state, Prussia (with a couple of very minor exceptions for geographic connectedness). As a result, the East–West border separated the populaces of pre-existing areas with distinct histories and cultures.

Since the border follows pre-existing regions, us can discover pre-WWII county-level data come investigate even if it is West and also East differed in pertinent dimensions. A an initial dimension is the size of the working class, strongly emphasised by communist countries. Inspecting pre-WWII data, we view that the east Germany already had a substantially greater working-class re-publishing in 1925 (Figure 1), well before the area came to be communist. The difference between East and West in working-class share amounts to 12 portion points. In fact, the working-class re-superstructure jumps fairly abruptly in numerous regions approximately the later on inner-German border: that is significantly detectable when concentrating on counties in ~ 100 kilometer of the later border or ~ above the counties that have a direct call with the later border.

Figure 1 The working-class re-superstructure in 1925: East–West differences before the GDR existed


Source: Becker et al., forthcoming. 

East–West differences prior to WWII room salient in other dimensions as well. Number 2 reflects comparisons in financial outcomes relevant to the onset of communism. Amongst others, the manufacturing-employment share to be significantly higher in the East, vice versa, the East’s re-publishing of the population that is self-employed was substantially lower (Fritsch and also Wyrwich 2014). 

Figure 2 East–West differences prior to WWII


Source: very own depiction based upon Becker et al., forthcoming. 

Interestingly, political choices also already differed prior to WWII. The communist vote share in the eastern was twin that that the West in 1924. When looking in ~ left-wing parties much more broadly (in particular, adding Social Democrats), the left poll share to be 15 portion points higher in the East.

Communism is frequently thought to have crowded the end religion. Yet East Germany currently had lower church attendance (in the protestant church) at the start of the 20th century (Hölscher 2001). Furthermore, if the West was roughly balanced between Protestants and Catholics, the eastern was mainly (91%) protestant (Becker and also Woessmann 2009).

Finally, the socialist GDR placed much focus on gaining women come work. Yet, currently before WWII, woman labour-force joining was greater in the eastern (Wyrwich 2019). In addition, East and West differed markedly in the incidence the extramarital births before WWII (Klüsener and Goldstein 2016).

To the degree that several of these pre-existing distinctions persisted through the communist period, they might well be an important source the post-reunification heterogeneity in between East and West Germans.

WWII and also occupying forces impacted East and West differentially

East and West to be differentially impacted by WWII and also the occupying forces. Making use of data native the German Census jointly administered in all four occupation zones in October 1946, we present that the ratio of men to women was substantially lower in the Soviet zone. No such distinctions had exist in the last pre-WWII census, in 1939. 

The bigger decrease in the sex ratio in the Soviet zone may reflect a larger war-related male death toll, however potentially likewise mirrors sex inequalities in an extremely early East–West migration. Whatever the source, the distinction may have added to distinctions in several outcomes, such as female labour-force participation, sex roles, and also even politics views. 

The East likewise suffered bigger losses as result of the dismantling of resources equipment by and paying reparations to the occupying forces throughout 1945–1949. This gave the GDR a worse starting position than the FDR (Sleifer 2006).

A selective fifth of the populace left the East prior to building of Berlin Wall 

The four occupation area were developed in 1945, and the GDR was started in 1949. But it to be possible, albeit progressively difficult, to migrate in between the two components of Germany till the Berlin wall was constructed in 1961. In fact, about one in five of east Germany’s populace migrated West until 1961. While over there is no data to to compare these emigrants to those who continued to be behind in the East, we display that individuals who relocated from eastern to West differed from regional West Germans in being much more likely to be white-collar workers, self-employed, and better educated. Presumably, castle were additionally less receptive come the communist theory (see likewise Bauernschuster et al. 2012). 

What is occasionally overlooked is that also about fifty percent a million human being migrated native the West to the East prior to 1961. GDR propaganda describes them as “not in agreement with the capitalist system”. We display that six of the 19 Politburo members in the at an early stage GDR (1949–1961) had actually been born in what ended up being West Germany, consisting of long-time GDR leader Erich Honecker. Bring away together, the evidence argues that there to be selective migration and also sorting by politics preferences.

Caution warranted once interpreting evidence on ‘effects’ of communism 

Considering this findings of pre-existing East–West differences, differential effects of WWII and also the subsequent occupation, and selective East–West migration, is the German setup still advantageous to examine the impact of communism? us think that the price is yes, together it does offer some distinctive advantages. 

However, us emphasise that each research inquiry requires sensible factor to consider of the outlined challenges. The most convincing proof of the result of political systems more than likely stems from the post-reunification convergence of some economic behaviours, political preferences, and also trust in the state. The endure of having lived in the communist system additionally seems to have actually permanently transformed consumption patterns. In addition, the communist system most likely shaped gender roles in terms of female labour-force participation or fertility preferences, yet these likewise include a solid legacy component already visible prior to WWII.

The much more general insight is that the breakthrough of political solution is hardly ever exogenous. For example, politics systems become endogenous if political choices are endogenous come prior experience (Fuchs-Schündeln and also Schündeln 2015). This idea is most apparent in revolutions started by groups frustrated v the existing system. Yet effects of political systems should be closely assessed also if a new political mechanism is implemented by external players: regime changes may think about pre-existing conditions, and also people dissatisfied v the brand-new regime may simply pick to ‘vote with their feet’ and emigrate, leaving behind a populace reasonably well aligned with the brand-new regime.


Alesina, A, and N Fuchs-Schündeln (2007), “Goodbye Lenin (or not?): The effect of communist on people”, American financial Review 97 (4): 1507–28.

Bauernschuster, S, O Falck, R Gold and S Heblich (2012), “The shadows that the socialist past: lack of freedom hinders entrepreneurship”, European journal of Political economic situation 28(4): 485–97.

Becker, S O, l Mergele and L Woessmann (2020), “The separation and also reunification of Germany: inventory a natural experiment translate of the enduring effects of communism”, Journal of economic Perspectives 34(2), forthcoming.

Becker, S O, and also L Woessmann (2009), “Was Weber wrong? A human funding theory of Protestant financial history”, Quarterly journal of Economics 124(2): 531–96.

Campa, P, and M Serafinelli (2019), “Politico-economic regimes and also attitudes: Female employees under state socialism”, Review that Economics and Statistics 101(2): 233–48.

Fritsch, M, and also M Wyrwich (2014), “The lengthy persistence of local levels the entrepreneurship: Germany, 1925–2005”, Regional Studies 48(6): 955–73.

Fuchs-Schündeln, N, and M Schündeln (2015), “On the endogeneity of politics preferences: evidence from individual suffer with democracy”, Science 347(6226): 1145–8.

Goldfayn-Frank, O, and J Wohlfart (2020), “Expectation development in a brand-new environment: proof from the German reunification”, Journal of monetary Economics, forthcoming.

Hölscher, together (2001), Datenatlas zur religiösen Geographie ns protestantischen Deutschland: Von der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis zum Zweiten Weltkrieg, 4 vols., Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Klüsener, S, and J R Goldstein (2016), “A long-standing demography East–West divide in Germany”, Population, space and ar 22(1): 5–22.

Laudenbach, C, U Malmendier and also A Niessen-Ruenzi (2019), “The long-lasting results of enduring communism on attitudes towards financial markets”, functioning paper.

Lippmann, Q, A Georgieff and C Senik (2020), “Undoing gender with institutions: Lessons native the German division and reunification”, economic Journal, forthcoming.

Simpser, A, D Slater and also J Wittenberg (2018), “Dead but not gone: contemporary legacies that communism, imperialism, and also authoritarianism”, Annual testimonial of Political scientific research 21(1): 419–39.

Sleifer, J (2006), “Planning ahead and falling behind: The east German economic situation in comparison through West Germany 1936–2002”, in Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Beiheft 8, Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

See more: Hallmark Movies And Mysteries Christmas Movies 2016, Hallmark Movies And Mystery Christmas Movies

Wyrwich, M (2019), “Historical and also current spatial distinctions in woman labour pressure participation: proof from Germany”, Papers in local Science 98(1): 211–39.