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The Value of Reunification in Germany: An Analysis of Changes in Life Satisfaction

  • Shields, Michael

    (University of Melbourne)

  • Paul Frijters
  • John P Haisken-DeNew

Recent years have seen a considerable increase in the number of economists researching the role of income, employment status and other demographic characteristics in determining individual life satisfaction or happiness. In this paper we investigate how life satisfaction is affected by a large exogenous shock, namely, reunification for East Germans. In particular, we identify the effects of the substantial increase in real household income and increased unemployment. We implement a new fixed-effect estimator for ordinal life satisfaction in the German Socio-Economic Panel and develop a decomposition approach that accounts for new entrants and panel attrition. We find that average life satisfaction in East Germany increased by around 20% in the years following reunification, leading to a clear convergence with West Germany. Importantly, increased real household incomes in East Germany accounted for around 35-40% of this increase.

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Paper provided by Royal Economic Society in its series Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2003 with number 186.

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Date of creation: 04 Jun 2003
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Handle: RePEc:ecj:ac2003:186
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  16. Gerlach, Knut & Stephan, Gesine, 1996. "A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 325-330, September.
  17. Shields, Michael A & Wailoo, Allan, 2002. "Exploring the Determinants of Unhappiness for Ethnic Minority Men in Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 49(4), pages 445-66, September.
  18. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
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  20. Gerdtham, Ulf-G & Johannesson, Magnus, 1997. "The Relationship between Happiness, Health and Socio-economic Factors: Results Based on Swedish Micro Data," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 207, Stockholm School of Economics.
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