IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Why Do People Still Live in East Germany?


  • Jennifer Hunt


In 1997 GDP per capita in East Germany was 57% of that of West Germany, wage rates were 75% of western levels, and the unemployment rate was at least double the western rate of 7.8%. One would expect that if capital flows and trade in goods failed to bring convergence, labor flows would respond, enhancing overall efficiency. Yet net emigration from East Germany has fallen from high levels in 1989-1990 to close to zero. Using state-level data for all of Germany, available from 1991-1996, I am able to explain the downward trend in east to west migration using wage and unemployment information. Convergence in hourly wages is the most important factor. Analysis of the eastern sample of the German Socio-Economic Panel for 1990-1997 suggests that commuting is unlikely to substitute substantially for emigration. The individual-level data further indicate that emigrants are disproportionately young and skilled, and that individuals suffering a layoff or non-employment spell are also much more likely to emigrate.

Suggested Citation

  • Jennifer Hunt, 2000. "Why Do People Still Live in East Germany?," NBER Working Papers 7564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7564
    Note: LS

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jörg Decressin, 1994. "Internal migration in West Germany and implications for East-West salary convergence," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 130(2), pages 231-257, June.
    2. Richard B. Freeman, 1982. "Crime and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 1031, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Decressin, Jorg & Fatas, Antonio, 1995. "Regional labor market dynamics in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 1627-1655, December.
    4. Michael C. Burda & Wolfgang Härdle & Marlene Müller & Axel Werwatz, 1998. "Semiparametric analysis of German East-West migration intentions: facts and theory," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(5), pages 525-541.
    5. Daveri, F & Faini, R, 1996. "Where Do Migrants Go? Risk-Aversion, Mobility Costs and the Locational Choice of Migrants," Papers 290, Banca Italia - Servizio di Studi.
    6. Burda, Michael C, 1995. "Migration and the Option Value of Waiting," CEPR Discussion Papers 1229, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Jennifer Hunt, 2001. "Post-Unification Wage Growth in East Germany," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 190-195, February.
    8. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
    9. Borjas, George J. & Bronars, Stephen G. & Trejo, Stephen J., 1992. "Self-selection and internal migration in the United States," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 159-185, September.
    10. Chiara Bentivogli & Patrizio Pagano, 1999. "Regional Disparities and Labour Mobility: the Euro-11 versus the USA," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 13(3), pages 737-760, September.
    11. Daveri, Francesco & Faini, Riccardo, 1999. "Where Do Migrants Go?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(4), pages 595-622, October.
    12. Burda, Michael C., 1993. "The determinants of East-West German migration: Some first results," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 452-461, April.
    13. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-553, September.
    14. Jackman, Richard & Savouri, Savvas, 1992. "Regional Migration in Britain: An Analysis of Gross Flows Using NHS Central Register Data," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(415), pages 1433-1450, November.
    15. Peter Krause, 1994. "Armut im Wohlstand: Betroffenheit und Folgen," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 88, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    16. Pissarides, Christopher A & Wadsworth, Jonathan, 1989. "Unemployment and the Inter-regional Mobility of Labour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(397), pages 739-755, September.
    17. George J. Borjas, 1991. "Immigration and Self-Selection," NBER Chapters,in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 29-76 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Lundborg, Per, 1991. " Determinants of Migration in the Nordic Labor Market," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 93(3), pages 363-375.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • P23 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Factor and Product Markets; Industry Studies; Population

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7564. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.