Winners of the German Unification?

(Published in German 2019 in Frauenstadtarchiv Dresden (Hrsg.). Frauen der Wendegeneration. Eine Spurensuche: Wissenschaft. Medien. Biographien. Dresden: Frauenstadtarchiv. S. 25-29).

In a block of questions titled “How do you identify yourself…” the Saxon Longitudinal Study has been inquiring various areas of identity for several years, such as feeling “European”, “Saxon” or “a citizen of former GDR”. In this topic block, another question asked is the experience of “winning the German reunification”. Both answer options “yes, completely” and “yes, a little” are summarized as “winners”. The figure shows the results from 2005 (wave 19) to 2017/18 (wave 30), separated by gender.

Figure: Estimation as „Winner of the German Unity” from 2005 until 2017/18 in percentage, separated by gender, (c) (r) 2020 Prof. Dr. Hendrik Berth, Saxon Longitudinal Study

The data show significant gender differences over all survey periods. Every time more male participants considered themselves as winners of the Unity. In 2005, as the question was asked for the first time, only under a third of the women but almost two-thirds of the men already considered themselves as winners. From 2005 on, the majority of the male participants always saw themselves as winners, the female participants only after 2010. Over time there has been a significant increase in the winning estimations in both groups. For men it was over 80% in 2017/2018, for women 66%. In reverse, however, these numbers also show that even 30 years after the German reunification, 20% of the East German men and 34% of the East German women still consider themselves as losers of the German Unity.

There are specific analyses of temporal changes and influencing factors available on this question from earlier waves of the Saxon Longitudinal Study (see Berth et al., 2014). In 2012, the classification as losers of the Unity was influenced not only by gender, but also unemployment, place of residence in East Germany and a lower income. Participants who were not CDU/CSU voters were also more likely to consider themselves as losers of the Unity. Furthermore, the evaluation shows that the classification as a loser of the unity also has a negative effect on the assessment of other aspects of life and policy, such as the general supporting of the German reunification, satisfaction with the living situation and politics, the threat of unemployment, the perception of identity as a citizen of the federal republic or the personal trust in the future. These trends can be found in all survey waves of the Saxon Longitudinal Study: The participants who consider themselves as losers of the unity are more dissatisfied with many aspects of everyday and political life.

Figure: Winners or losers of the German Unification – Impact on various attitudes 2012 (%),(c) (r) 2020 Saxon Longitudinal Study, Prof. Dr. Hendrik Berth


Berth, H., Förster, P., Brähler, E., Zenger, M., Zimmermann, A. & Stöbel-Richter, Y. (2014). Wer sind die Verlierer der deutschen Einheit? Ergebnisse aus der Sächsischen Längsschnittstudie. In E. Brähler & W. Wagner (Hrsg.), Kein Ende mit der Wende? Perspektiven aus Ost und West (S. 75-87). Gießen: Psychosozial-Verlag.