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ifo Study Reveals Growing Similarities Between Former East and West Germany

Summary:
Forty years of the former DDR left its mark on eastern Germany. But there are now surprisingly few differences left between eastern and western Germans in many areas; and some of the remaining disparities are fading fast, according to a new study released by the ifo Institute. “Younger people in both parts of the country in particular hold similar opinions and behave in similar ways,” notes Helmut Rainer, head of the research project. “Older people in eastern German, who lived most of their lives in the former East Germany, differ more strongly from people of the same age in western Germany; and often tend to distance themselves from the economic and social order of the Federal Republic of Germany too,” he explains. According to

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Forty years of the former DDR left its mark on eastern Germany. But there are now surprisingly few differences left between eastern and western Germans in many areas; and some of the remaining disparities are fading fast, according to a new study released by the ifo Institute.

“Younger people in both parts of the country in particular hold similar opinions and behave in similar ways,” notes Helmut Rainer, head of the research project. “Older people in eastern German, who lived most of their lives in the former East Germany, differ more strongly from people of the same age in western Germany; and often tend to distance themselves from the economic and social order of the Federal Republic of Germany too,” he explains.

According to Rainer: “There are greater differences between Eastern and Western Germany, especially in terms of trusting others. This particularly applies to foreigners. “Immigrant, Italians, Turks and asylum-seekers are far less popular with eastern Germans than with their western compatriots. This appears to be due to fears of potential threats that are difficult to explain rationally, as well as little familiarity with their foreign neighbours, which has recently led to xenophobic clashes in some eastern German regions. Co-author of the study Joachim Ragnitz adds: “Eastern Germans also trust democratic institutions less, and they are generally less willing to take on voluntary work and participate in elections than west Germans. But they still have higher expectations of the state (especially in terms of distribution policy), which is partly due to the continued existence of economic differences.” This is reflected in political attitudes that tend to be geared far more towards left-wing party politics in eastern Germany.

Within families, by contrast, differences between eastern and western Germany (in terms of the role behaviour of men and women, for example) tend to be limited and are increasingly characterised by a convergence between east and west.
“The initial question of whether differences between the two regions are disappearing can consequently be answered with “yes” in many cases. But the convergence process is not yet complete; and the extent to which this will ever take place remains open,” conclude Rainer and Ragnitz.

    Clemens Fuest
    Clemens Fuest took over from Hans Werner Sinn as chairman of the IFO Institute in April 2016. He is professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Munich.

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