Volume 43 - Article 33 | Pages 993–1008  

The turnaround in internal migration between East and West Germany over the period 1991 to 2018

By Nico Stawarz, Nikola Sander, Harun Sulak, Matthias Rosenbaum-Feldbrügge


Background: After losing a population of more than 1.2 million through migration to the West, in 2017 East Germany recorded net internal migration gains for the very first time since reunification.

Objective: In consideration of this trend reversal, we investigate internal migration patterns between East and West Germany since reunification and discuss their consequences for population dynamics.

Methods: We use annual inter-county migration flows for the period 1991 to 2018 to calculate the yearly total number of registered moves and internal migration rates differentiated by citizenship, age, and sex.

Results: East Germany currently experiences small net population gains through internal migration among almost all age groups and noticeable net population losses only among labor market entrants (25–29 year olds). In addition, the results show that men have dominated West-East migration throughout the entire study period and East-West migration since about 2008.

Conclusions: Internal migration between East and West Germany has changed significantly since reunification. The continuing population losses among labor market entrants reveal that the West German labor market is still more attractive for young adults. The sex differences in migration propensities show that the shortages of women in many rural regions of East Germany cannot be solely explained by exceeding female East-West migration.

Contribution: In 2017, East Germany experienced population gains thanks to internal migration for the first time since reunification. We provide scientific evidence to place the current migration trend reversal into context and highlight the selective nature of migration flows between East and West Germany.

Author's Affiliation

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