As the study began in 1987, the participants were around 14 years old (born in 1973) and attended the 8th class of the ten-year “polytechnische Oberschule” (POS). In the examinations from 1987 to 1989, 1281 pupils participated from the former GDR districts of Leipzig and Karl-Marx-Stadt. They were from 72 different classes and 41 different schools that were all randomly selected. Back then, the population was GDR-representative to a great extent.

By the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall the participants were already 16/17 years old, had graduated from the “polytechinsche Oberschule” (POS) and had been more or less persistently shaped by the education and upbringing system of the GDR for over a decade. At the same time, they were still young enough to reorient themselves after the collapse of the GDR and socialism, and to either adopt the values and visions of the current social system or to critically examine and refuse them.

In the spring of 1989, 587 participants agreed to continue attending in similar examinations even after finishing school. Due to a change of residence (particularly in the old federal states), the circle was reduced to 485 people during the time of the German reunification. An adequate part of them participated in the (postal) surveys carried out after the reunification (e. g. 2002: 419 people, 71%, 2007: 383 people, 65%, 2012: 350 people, 59%, 2019/29 322 people, 55%).

Figure: Sample of a declaration of consent from 1989, (c) (r) 2020 Saxon longitudinal study

The number of respondents varied from 170 to 276 in the years 1990 to 1994 and in 1995 from around 350 to 400 respondents with an increasing tendency. It should be noted that despite intense efforts, the present residence could not be identified for a part of the respondents. Currently (2020), 428 of the initial 587 addresses are considered as “active”, i.e. the participants have not passed away, moved to a new location without notification or withdrawn their willingness to participate. Considering the number of active adresses, the response rate in 2019/20 was 75%.

Already in 2000, a corresponding question showed that the panel members had changed their places of residence an average of 2.5 times. In 2005 the result was 3.2 times with a previous record of 12 times. In most cases, this also meant a (renewed) change of address for the study and often resending the survey documents. In 2005, only 6% of the participants seemed to be settled down in one place.

Table: Overview of the waves and participants of the Saxon longitudinal study 1987-2019/20

51990December86 (selection)
131998April – September368
142000June – August398
152001/2002December – January354
162002April – July420
172003April – July419
182004May – July414
192005Mai – August384
202006June – August393
212007June – August383
222008March – October381
232009June – November364
242010June – November326
252011/2012November – January373
262012June – September350
272013/2014November – March328
292016September – December271
302017/2018November – February313
312019/2020November – March322

The results of the study can presumably be generalized for all East Germans in this age group. Similar results can also be expected in the adjacent age groups. This applies particularly to the represented relationships and trends. Emphasized is: Representativity for East Germans as a whole is explicitly not implied. However, as comparisons with representative examinations show, the study reflects the situation of many young East Germans on their way to a united Germany. 

The significance of the study is also supported by the fact that the relationships between the portions of panel members in Leipzig and Chemnitz regions have remained the same. Initially, 58% the total population came from the Leipzig region (including Leipzig, Torgau, Delitzsch, Borna), 42% from Chemnitz region (including Zwickau, Schneeberg, Plauen). In the 19th wave of the study in 2005, the ratios were 60% to 40%. Even the portions of the emigrated panel members are factually identical: 23% of the members in Leipzig region went to the old federal states or abroad, 21% of the members in Chemnitz region.

At the time of the 31th wave of the study (in 2019/2020), the mean age was 47 years. 46% of the participants were male, 54% female. Over half of the respondents (55%) were married and 81% lived in a domestic relationship. Majority of the participants (81%) had children.

When asked about the highest achieved school-leaving qualification in 2011 (wave 25), the following information was given: 55% 10th grade, 13% “Abitur” (higher education entrance qualification), 8% completed vocational school and 23% had either completed a vocational training at a university of applied sciences or had a university degree. Therefore, the participants in the Saxon longitudinal study are a relatively well-educated group.

The practiced occupations in the 31th survey wave were: 19% blue-collar workers, 8% self-employed, 61% white-collar workers, 6% civil servants, 4% others (housewife/stay-at-home-father/ in parental leave,…) and 2% were unemployed.

The distribution of the income groups (personal monthly net income) was given in 2019/20 as following: up to 999 € 6%, 1000 to 1999€ 42%, 2000 to 2999€ 34%, 3000 to 3999€ 7%, 4000 to 4999€ 6% and 5000€ or more 5%. 78% of the participants lived in the new federal states, 22% moved to the old states or abroad.

The 24th wave of the study in 2010 opened an alternative possibility to the paper version – to fill in the questionnaire online. For that purpose, a survey system hosted by a secure server at the TU Dresden was used. Access to the system follows via an individual TAN. The online survey offers various advantages: the printing and postage costs are significantly reduced. The data is immediately available in digitized form and overelaborate and error-prone data entries into the questionnaire are eliminated. Answering the questionnaire is possible at any time with all digital devices (smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.). However, a large amount of the participants do not make a use of it. Reasons for that were, for example, worries about data security and the lack of a PC or an adequate internet connection.

Majority of the participants (approximately 60-70%) chose to take part in the survey online during the recent years. A statistical comparison of the online and offline participants showed that there were no differences regarding gender, partnership or presence of children. By tendency (p<0.1) respondents living in West Germany and those with a personal monthly income of 3000€ or more tend to participate online. There was a clear difference between those with “Abitur” or higher education qualification and those without “Abitur”. The participants with a higher school education significantly prefer online participation. In all waves from the 24th to the 30th, there were always N=200 participants. The steady participation was outstandingly more frequent among the online participants (73.7%) than among the people preferring the paper questionnaire (47%).


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