The Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is an independent research-driven infrastructure. Data from the SOEP survey are made available to researchers worldwide and also used in research carried out at DIW Berlin.
Researchers on the SOEP team use the data to study processes of transformation and change in our society. One important area of research deals with the question of how equally or unequally societal resources such as income and wealth are distributed, and how access to education and the labor market create risks and opportunities. Another research area examines how living conditions affect health and well-being, and what role personality plays across the life course. A further key research area investigates the living situations of migrants (Migration and Social Transformation). Survey methodology and data science experts on the SOEP team are working constantly to develop and further improve the study.
Contacts responsible for specific topics in the SOEP and results can be found under SOEP Research.
SOEP staff also carry out a range of infrastructure tasks: conceptualizing studies and samples (Survey Methodology and Management), preparing SOEP data for user-friendly analysis and distributing the data to researchers (Data Operation and Research Data Center), and analyzing the data (Applied Panel Analysis). They provide training in the use of the SOEP data and disseminate SOEP-based research findings throughout society—to both the policy community and the broader public (Knowledge Transfer).
The SOEP Infrastructure is managed by a Board of Directors. These include the Director of the SOEP (who is also a member of the DIW Executive Board) and four Division Heads. The SOEP Survey Committee, which is comprised of up to nine researchers appointed by the DIW Board of Trustees, serves as an advisory board to the SOEP.
The SOEP is one of Germany’s most important research data infrastructures in the socixal, behavioral, and economic sciences and is part of the National Roadmap for Infrastructures of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As part of the Leibniz Association, the SOEP receives funding from the BMBF and federal state governments.
The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is an independent, non-partisan research-driven infrastructure unit that serves the international scientific community by providing nationally representative longitudinal data (the SOEP study) and related datasets (SOEP-Related Studies) on private households in Germany.
The SOEP team is recognized internationally for high-level scientific research on survey methodological and theoretical as well as applied and policy-oriented topics. The SOEP works to communicate research findings to the broader public in an easily understandable way, thus contributing to knowledge transfer from research to society.
The SOEP study is designed from a multidisciplinary perspective to provide data for basic, applied, and policy-relevant research that will improve our understanding of human behavior, economic decisions, mechanisms of social change, and the impacts of political decisions. It takes the household context, the neighborhood, and different institutional settings and policy regimes into account, and also makes use of data from external sources. Boost samples are added regularly to keep pace with societal change. SOEP datasets are linked to data from other sources in line with data protection regulations to expand the potential for scientific analysis. The SOEP’s partnerships with studies worldwide promote the use of SOEP data in international comparative research.
Research questions and survey contents are solely determined by scientific criteria. The SOEP provides user-friendly panel and context data of the highest quality to the research community and ensures methodological transparency. The data are used above all in the social, economic, and behavioral sciences and beyond.
Cornerstones of our work
Every year since 1984, the SOEP has surveyed thousands of households across Germany from an intergenerational life-course perspective on their economic and social circumstances, behavior, subjective well-being, and their attitudes and preferences.
The SOEP places top priority on maintaining respondents’ data confidentiality through strict adherence to legal data protection regulations and the highest standards of research ethics.
The SOEP is constantly developing its methods of measurement further and adapting methodologies to the state of the art. Innovative research designs are regularly incorporated into the SOEP study to increase the analytical potential of the data. The SOEP Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS), which was constructed between 2012 and 2016, has become an integral element of the research data infrastructure. It offers unique opportunities both for international researchers to collect data for their own studies and for the SOEP to introduce new innovations into the core sample. In recent years, it has also been possible to incorporate social scientific field experiments and thus a systematic comparative perspective into the SOEP, expanding the possibilities for causal analysis of SOEP data.
SOEP data are made available free of charge in line with the FAIR principles for scientific data management FAIR stands for “findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable.” (see GO Fair Initiative). User support is provided through a comprehensive range of information and services that reflect the technical and methodological state of the art.
The SOEP holds regular workshops and teaching events to pass knowledge and skills on to the next generation of researchers, tailoring the content of events to users’ needs.
The SOEP is part of a national and international network of scientific users. These connections are fundamental to the SOEP team’s research and infrastructural activities and serve to improve the quality of the SOEP survey, research, and services.
Members of the SOEP group are engaged in conceptually advanced and methodologically sophisticated scientific research in economics, sociology, psychology, and other fields in the social sciences. Their research focuses on important topics and issues in modern societies (for instance, social inequality and migration). Their work is founded on an empirical and analytical understanding of scientific research.
The SOEP is engaged in numerous collaborations and joint projects with scholars worldwide.
The SOEP is constantly striving to set new national and international standards in the conception, design, collection, preparation, and distribution of household panel data and related data in a user-friendly format, and to lead the field internationally in the quality, originality, significance, and rigor of its work.
The SOEP study was founded in 1984. “What we were doing was new and revolutionary,” recalls Hans-Jürgen Krupp, founder and first director of the SOEP: “We collected longitudinal data, we merged social and economic factors, and we surveyed foreigners.” In the beginning, the study’s founders hoped that there would be funding for five years. Today, the SOEP is one of the most important research data infrastructures in the social and behavioral sciences worldwide. You’ll find out more about the institutional history of the SOEP here.
Over the years, the longitudinal SOEP study has been adapted constantly to current societal conditions. In June 1990—after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989—the study was expanded into the former GDR. And in 2016—after the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Germany over the course of the previous year—the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees was launched. More on these and other milestones in the history of the SOEP study can be found here.
For more about the events that have shaped people’s lives in Germany since 1984—and what SOEP researchers have found about them—see our SOEP timeline.