All participants of the study were born in or around 1973 in the GDR districts Leipzig or Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz), and they grew up there until the reunification. With the term “migration” we refer to the participants of Saxon Longitudinal Study moving away from the new federal states to the old ones or abroad.
After the founding of two separate German states in 1949, especially young and well-educated GDR citizens left their homeland and moved towards the federal states. 1961 a wall was built in the GDR in order to stop the GDR citizens emigrating to the federal republic. Despite that, hundreds of thousands of people left the GDR every year fleeing the socialist regime or searching for a better life. In summer 1989 many GDR citizens used the open border from Hungary to Austria to get to the West. Many people also fled to the embassies of the federal republic, such as the Czech capital Prague.
Year after year, even after the German reunification in 1990, several East Germans left their homeland for the old federal states, often looking for work. The population of East Germany has therefore continued to shrink (see e.g. Spiegel article).
That is why migration has also an important role in the Saxon Longitudinal Study.
As early as 1996, when the participants were around 23 years old, 13% had moved away from their homeland to the old federal states or abroad. Shortly after the end of the millennium, the percentage share of those who moved away was around 24% and has remained stable. However, it is quite possible that they lived in the West/abroad for a while and have returned ever since.
In the Saxon Longitudinal Study, the percentage of men and women who moved away from the East is approximately the same. However, that is different in the overall trend of the new states. Young women are more likely to leave and men to stay behind. Unemployment and poor career prospects were repeatedly named as the cause of migration.
Already in year 1991 the participants, who were around 18 years old at the time, were asked if they considered moving into the old states (intentions to migrate). Taking the relationship between migration intentions and life goals into consideration, it turns out, that those participants who intended to migrate had rather materialistic life goals, such as “to earn a lot of money”.
The analyses on the consequences of a migration show: Moving from East to West usually has a very positive effect. The satisfaction with the income, just like the actual income too, is higher. The satisfaction increased also with many other aspects of life, such as political or economic system. They are (mostly) well integrated in their new place of residence, both professionally and privately, and have barely any intentions to return.
The general psychological burden was measured with the so called “Distress-Score” (D-Score). The data has been available there since the mid-1990s. The D-Score includes 4 questions, such as “I often feel depressed and dejected”. The positive responses were summed together, a higher value represents a higher psychological burden. As the figure shows, in almost all the presented survey waves, the psychological burden is higher for people living in East Germany. Or, phrased in the other way around, people who moved to West Germany are more relaxed and less stressed.
Berth, H., Förster, P. & Brähler, E. (2004). Psychosoziale Folgen einer Migration aus den neuen in die alten Bundesländer. Ergebnisse einer Längsschnittstudie. psychosozial, 26, 81-95.
Berth, H., Förster, P., Brähler, E. & Stöbel-Richter, Y. (2007). Go West! Migration in die alten Länder, ihre Ursachen und Folgen. In H. Berth, P. Förster, E. Brähler & Y. Stöbel-Richter (Hrsg.), Einheitslust und Einheitsfrust. Junge Ostdeutsche auf dem Weg vom DDR- zum Bundesbürger. Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Langzeitstudie von 1987-2006 (S. 177-198). Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag.
Berth, H., Förster, P., Brähler, E., Zenger, M., Zimmermann, A. & Stöbel-Richter, Y. (2014). Innerdeutsche Migration und seelische Gesundheit. Ergebnisse aus der Sächsischen Längsschnittstudie. In E. Brähler & W. Wagner (Hrsg.), Kein Ende mit der Wende? Perspektiven aus Ost und West (S. 89-101). Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag.
Kasinger, C., Brähler, E., Heller, A., Stöbel-Richter, Y., Zenger, M. & Berth, H. (2021). Binnenmigration und psychische Gesundheit in der Sächsischen Längsschnittstudie – Relevante Faktoren 20 und 30 Jahre nach der Wiedervereinigung. Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik, Medizinische Psychologie, doi 10.1055/a-1662-5395.
Schmalbach, B., Schmalbach, I., Kasinger, C., Petrowski, K., Brähler, E., Zenger, M., Stöbel-Richter, Y., Richter, E.P. & Berth, H. (2021). Psychological and socio-economical determinants of health: The case of inner German migration. Frontiers in Public Health 9:691680, doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.691680