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

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:12 Mar 2020
Date published:29 Sep 2020
Word count:2539
Keywords:age, East Germany, internal migration, sex, West Germany


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

Nico Stawarz - Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (BiB), Germany [Email]
Nikola Sander - Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (BiB), Germany [Email]
Harun Sulak - Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (BiB), Germany [Email]
Matthias Rosenbaum-Feldbrügge - Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerungsforschung (BiB), Germany [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Editorial to the Special Issue on Demographic Data Visualization: Getting the point across – Reaching the potential of demographic data visualization
Volume 44 - Article 36

» The impact of parental death on the timing of first marriage: Evolutionary versus social explanations (The Netherlands, 1850–1940)
Volume 40 - Article 28

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Who becomes a grandparent – and when? Educational differences in the chances and timing of grandparenthood
Volume 37 - Article 29    | Keywords: East Germany, West Germany

» Estimating male fertility in eastern and western Germany since 1991: A new lowest low?
Volume 35 - Article 53    | Keywords: East Germany, West Germany

» Migration signatures across the decades: Net migration by age in U.S. counties, 1950-2010
Volume 32 - Article 38    | Keywords: age, internal migration

» Differential mortality by lifetime earnings in Germany
Volume 17 - Article 4    | Keywords: East Germany, West Germany

» The question of the human mortality plateau: Contrasting insights by longevity pioneers
Volume 48 - Article 11    | Keywords: age