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East Germany overtakes West Germany: recent trends in order-specific fertility dynamics


  • Joshua R. Goldstein

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

  • Michaela Kreyenfeld

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


Some 20 years after unification, the contrast between East and West Germany provides a unique natural experiment for studying the persistence of communist-era family patterns, the effects of economic change, and the complexities of the process of fertility postponement. After unification, fertility rates plummeted in the former East Germany to record low levels. The number of births per year fell 60 percent. The period total fertility rate (TFR) reached a low of 0.8. Since the middle of the 1990s, however, period fertility rates have been rising in East Germany, in contrast to the nearly constant rates seen in the West. By 2008, the TFR of East Germany had overtaken that of the West. In this paper, we explore why fertility in the East is higher than in West Germany, despite the severe economic situation in the East, whether the East German TFR will increase even further in the future, and whether the West German rate will remain at the constantly low level that has prevailed since the 1970s. This article seeks to shed some light on these questions by (a) giving an account of the persisting East-West differences in attitudes towards and constraints on childbearing, (b) conducting an order-specific fertility analysis of recent fertility trends, and (c) projecting completed fertility for the recent East and West German cohorts. In addition to using the Human Fertility Database, we draw upon Perinatal Statistics, which enable us to conduct an order-specific fertility analysis. This new data source allows us to calculate a tempo-corrected TFR for East and West Germany, which has not been available previously.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua R. Goldstein & Michaela Kreyenfeld, 2010. "East Germany overtakes West Germany: recent trends in order-specific fertility dynamics," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2010-033, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2010-033

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heike Trappe & Annemette Sørensen, 2005. "Economic Relations between Women and Their Partners: An East-West-German Comparison after Reunification," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 544, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Karl Brenke & Klaus F. Zimmermann, 2009. "Ostdeutschland 20 Jahre nach dem Mauerfall: was war und was ist heute mit der Wirtschaft?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 78(2), pages 32-62.
    3. Ron Lesthaeghe & Paul Willems, 1999. "Is Low Fertility a Temporary Phenomenon in the European Union?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 25(2), pages 211-228.
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    More about this item


    Germany; fertility;

    JEL classification:

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

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