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The premiere: The first article based on SOEP data is published in a specialist journal in April 1985. In the article, social scientist Christoph F. Büchtemann—then a researcher on the SOEP team at DIW Berlin—reports that the much-touted “new poverty” is far less widespread than many thought. Most of the two million people unemployed at the time in the Federal Republic of Germany are covered by unemployment insurance.

Büchtemann, Christoph F.: Soziale Sicherung bei Arbeitslosigkeit und Sozialhilfebedürftigkeit – Datenlage und neue Befunde, in: Mitteilungen aus der Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (MittAB) 18, No. 4, 1985, pp. 450–466

Not even a year passes between the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990. The founders of the SOEP are even faster: In June 1990, they send out 214 interviewers to conduct the first SOEP survey in the former GDR. This makes SOEP the only social scientific survey to have followed the transformation of Germany from a divided country through the reunification process to the present-day Federal Republic. Almost 25 years after the fall of the Wall, SOEP researchers took stock of this process and found that German reunification has been more than just an economic success—people in the former East are more satisfied with their lives today than ever before.


Priem, Maximilian and Schupp, Jürgen (2014): Everyone Happy - Living Standards in Germany 25 Years after Reunification. In: DIW Economic Bulletin, Vol. 4, No. 11, pp. 65-71 (PDF, 203.18 KB).

Young adults in SOEP households are interviewed personally as part of the survey. Since the year 2000, all 17-year-olds in SOEP households have completed the SOEP youth questionnaire, which includes questions about school, relationships to parents and siblings, leisure time, and hopes and plans for the future. The youth data can be linked to the data on other family members in the same household. Using these data, researchers can find answers to questions of how the parental household affects young people’s futures. SOEP researchers Jürgen Schupp and Adrian Hille have found, for instance, that music lessons in childhood and adolescence lead to better educational outcomes—especially in families with lower overall levels of education.


Hille, Adrian and Schupp, Jürgen (2015): How learning a musical instrument affects the development of skills. In: Economics of Education Review, Vol. 44, February 2015, pp. 56-82.

The discovery of early childhood: SOEP researchers develop the first mother-child questionnaire, which is used to collect annual information on the care situations of two-to-three-year-old children in SOEP households—on their health, personality, talents, and development. Using data from the mother-child questionnaire, researchers at DIW Berlin have discovered that daycare attendance has a positive influence on children’s everyday life skills.


Müller, Kai-Uwe; Spieß, C. Katharina; Wrohlich, Katharina: Kindertagesbetreuung: Wie wird ihre Nutzung beeinflusst und was kann sie für die Entwicklung von Kindern bewirken?,  in: Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung 83, Nr. 1, 2014, S. 49-67.

Personality and developmental psychologists discover the SOEP. One of the first is US American happiness researcher Ed Diener. Together with other researchers, he uses SOEP data to show that the loss of a job leads to long-lasting declines in subjective well-being, especially among men.

Lucas, Richard E.; Clark, Andrew E.; Georgellis, Yannis, and Diener, Ed (2004): Unemployment Alters the Set-Point of Life Satisfaction. In: Psychological Science, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp. 8-13.

On March 3, 2008, German news magazine Der Spiegel publishes an article entitled “The quiet death of the middle class”. It sparks a social and political debate that continues to the present day. The article is based on the first SOEP study on the distribution of income in Germany, focusing on the middle class. The authors are SOEP economists Markus M. Grabka and Joachim R. Frick.


Grabka, Markus M. and Frick, Joachim R. (2008): The Shrinking German Middle Class - Signs of Long-Term Polarization in Disposable Income? In: Weekly Report, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp. 21-27 (PDF, 391.75 KB).

In April, Germany’s first Management Monitor is published, commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth (BMFSFJ) and based on SOEP data. The authors of the report—a research group headed by DIW Gender Expert Elke Holst—analyze the situation of women and men in private-sector management positions. The findings from the first report: Little progress has been made since 2001 in the percentage of women in management. The top positions in the German economy are still held almost exclusively by men. Women in full-time executive management jobs earn around 25% less than men in the same positions.


Holst, Elke (2009): Führungskräfte-Monitor 2001–2006, Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, Forschungsreihe Band 7. Nomos Verlag: Baden-Baden

The SOEP Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS) was launched in 2012 to enable the SOEP to continue addressing new and innovative research questions. Around 5,500 respondents in 3,000 households take part every year. Researchers worldwide are invited to contribute content to the SOEP-IS. The SOEP-IS has been used, for instance, in the research on happiness to test innovative methods of studying happiness and satisfaction, and in economics to conduct behavioral experiments on risk-taking in adults.

Since the start of the study, the SOEP has surveyed an above-average proportion of households with adult household members from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, and the former Yugoslavia. The SOEP is the largest repeat survey of foreign nationals in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2013, an additional sample of around 5,000 immigrants is added to the SOEP: the IAB-SOEP Migration Study. The data show, among other things, that the better people from other countries are able to establish themselves in Germany, the more they profit economically from migration.


Brücker, Herbert; Liebau, Elisabeth; Romiti, Agnese, and Vallizadeh, Ehsan (2015): Recognized Qualifications and Command of German Language Are Worthwile, in: Sandra Gerstorf, Jürgen Schupp (Eds.), SOEP Wave Report 2014 (PDF, 4.61 MB), pp. 127-133

What defines a “good life” in Germany? Which aspects are most important to people? Where are improvements needed? In 2015, 60 randomly selected SOEP respondents meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel for a Citizens’ Dialogue to discuss the topic of “Living Well in Germany”. As a result of the Citizens’ Dialogue, an indicator system is developed to provide current information on the quality of life in Germany and how it is developing over time.

What kinds of training have refugees brought with them to Germany? How quickly can they be integrated into the labor market? What attitudes do Germans have toward the newcomers? The newly launched IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees provides answers to these questions from an annual survey of 2,000 refugees. One of the first findings from the study: Most refugees associate Germany with rule of law, respect for human rights, and freedom of religion.


Brücker, Herbert; Kunert, Astrid; Mangold, Ulrike; Kalusche, Barbara; Siegert, Manuel; Schupp, Jürgen: Geflüchtete Menschen in Deutschland: eine qualitative Befragung; Studie im Rahmen der IAB-BAMF-SOEP-Befragung von geflüchteten Menschen in Deutschland, IAB-Forschungsbericht Nr. 9, 2016, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

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