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Non-marital births in East Germany after unification


  • Dirk Konietzka

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)

  • Michaela Kreyenfeld

    (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Konietzka & Michaela Kreyenfeld, 2001. "Non-marital births in East Germany after unification," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-027, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2001-027

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Witte, James C. & Wagner, Gert G., 1995. "Declining Fertility in East Germany After Unification: A Demographic Response to Socioeconomic Change," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 387-397.
    2. R. Raley, 2001. "Increasing fertility in cohabiting unions: evidence for the second demographic transition in the united states?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(1), pages 59-66, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karsten Hank, 2002. "The Differential Influence of Women's Residential District on Their Risk of Entering Motherhood and First Marriage: A Discrete-Time Multilevel Analysis of Western German Panel Data, 1984 - 1999," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 274, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Kryštof Zeman, 2007. "Transition of nuptiality and fertility onset in the Czech Republic since the 1990s: the role of women’s education and its expansion," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2007-017, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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