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Economic Relations between Women and Their Partners: An East-West-German Comparison after Reunification


  • Heike Trappe
  • Annemette Sørensen


A comparison of women's and men's economic relations in the former East and West Germany (in this paper henceforth referred to as East and West Germany) in the years following reunification in 1990 is used to exemplify the differential impact of varying opportunity structures on the extent of and change in women's relative contribution to family income. East Germany represents a special case among transitional economies because it literally was taken over by West Germany, setting in motion a rapid transformation of East German institutions and employment structures. The analysis shows that women in the West became less dependent on their partner between 1990 and 2002, largely because fewer women were housewives without earnings. In contrast, women in the East saw their economic contributions to the family economy fall between 1990 and 1996, making them more dependent on their partner and social transfers. Between 1996 and 2002, however, women in East Germany regained some of their economic power, to a great extent because their partners were finding it increasingly difficult to sustain employment. A multivariate analysis showed that much of the difference between women in the East and the West could be accounted for by the fact that women in the West were more likely to work less or not at all, especially if they had children at home and were married.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp544

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gustafsson, Siv, 1992. "Separate Taxation and Married Women's Labor Supply: A Comparison of West Germany and Sweden," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 5(1), pages 61-85, February.
    2. Wolfgang Franz & Viktor Steiner, 2000. "Wages in the East German Transition Process: Facts and Explanations," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(3), pages 241-269, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:buecrs:v:69:y:2017:i:4:p:421-427 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Andreas Peichl & Martin Ungerer, 2017. "Equality Of Opportunity: East Vs. West Germany," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 421-427, October.

    More about this item


    Dual-earner couples; Economics of the family; Household economics; East and West Germany;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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