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The Long-Term Costs of Government Surveillance: Insights from Stasi Spying in East Germany

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  • Andreas Lichter
  • Max Löffler
  • Sebastian Siegloch

Abstract

Despite the prevalence of government surveillance systems around the world, causal evidence on their social and economic consequences is lacking. Using county-level variation in the number of Stasi informers within Socialist East Germany during the 1980s and accounting for potential endogeneity, we show that more intense regional surveillance led to lower levels of trust and reduced social activity in post-reunification Germany. We also find substantial and long-lasting economic effects of Stasi spying, resulting in lower self-employment, higher unemployment and larger out-migration throughout the 1990s and 2000s. We further show that these effects are due to surveillance and not alternative mechanisms. We argue that our findings have important implications for contemporary surveillance systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Lichter & Max Löffler & Sebastian Siegloch, 2016. "The Long-Term Costs of Government Surveillance: Insights from Stasi Spying in East Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 6042, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6042
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    Cited by:

    1. Albrecht Glitz & Erik Meyersson, 2020. "Industrial Espionage and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(4), pages 1055-1103, April.
    2. Goldfayn-Frank, Olga & Wohlfart, Johannes, 2018. "How do consumers adapt to a new environment in their economic forecasting? Evidence from the German reunification," IMFS Working Paper Series 129, Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS).
    3. Ulrike Malmendier & Leslie Sheng Shen, 2018. "Scarred Consumption," NBER Working Papers 24696, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Goldfayn-Frank, Olga & Wohlfart, Johannes, 2019. "How Do Consumers Adapt to a New Environment in their economic forecasting? Evidence from the German Reunification," VfS Annual Conference 2019 (Leipzig): 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall - Democracy and Market Economy 203668, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. Andreas Lichter & Max Löffler & Sebastian Siegloch, 2016. "Der lange Schatten der Stasi-Überwachung," ifo Dresden berichtet, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 23(05), pages 08-14, October.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    government surveillance; trust; social ties; East Germany;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General

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