In May of 1999, the German Bundestag passed the new nationality law with a large majority. Since this legal reform, German-born children of immigrants have been able to acquire German citizenship. They do, however, have to decide whether they want to retain German citizenship or that of their mother or father by the time they turn 23 (Spiegel article (in German)).
Who can become German and who can’t? A study by SOEP immigration expert Ingrid Tucci and co-author Claudia Diehl from the University of Göttingen published in the DIW Wochenbericht in 2009 shows how Germans’ attitudes towards immigration and naturalization have changed over the years since 1999. According to the study’s findings, in 1999 more than one-third of all German citizens without an immigration background reported being “very concerned” about immigration. Ten years later, only one-fourth of respondents expressed this level of concern (interview with Ingrid Tucci (in German)).
The study also showed that more and more German citizens without an immigration background (“Germans”) feel that behavior should be the determining factor in naturalization. Fewer Germans consider “ethnic German descent” to be the decisive criterion. For their study, the researchers used SOEP data as well as data from the ALLBUS German General Social Survey.
In February 1998, around 40,000 people in as many as 200 German cities took to the streets to demonstrate against high unemployment. The protests were sparked by labor market figures released in January showing that unemployment had reached 12.6 percent (Video ZDF (in German)).
What does unemployment mean for the individual? In a SOEP study published in 1998, economists Liliane Winkelmann and Rainer Winkelmann were able to show that job loss makes people unhappy, and that the detrimental effect on satisfaction cannot be explained by the loss of income alone. The article is among the most frequently cited SOEP studies.
Winkelmann, Liliana and Rainer Winkelmann (1998): Why are the unemployed so unhappy? Evidence from panel data. Economica, 65 (257): 1-15.
To address the issue of widespread unemployment, experts including Sociologist Ulrich Beck, head of the Commission for Future Questions of the Free States of Bavaria and Saxony, proposed that volunteer work as an alternative to paid work (Spiegel article (in German)). A SOEP study published in the DIW-Wochenbericht, however, showed that the men and women reporting involvement in volunteer work in Germany were mainly doing so in addition to paid work, whereas people without a job rarely engaged in volunteer work. The authors’ conclusions: volunteer work is not a sensible means of reducing unemployment. After all, why should the state offer volunteer work to people who don’t want it? And why should the public need for infrastructure and social services be covered by volunteer work? (Schwarze, Johannes; Gert G. Wagner; Marcel Erlinghagen and Karin Rinne (1998): Bürgerarbeit - Kein sinnvoller Weg zur Reduzierung der Arbeitslosigkeit. Wochenbericht des DIW Berlin, 65 (4): 82-85).
It was a once-in-a-century event for onlookers worldwide when the comet Hale-Bopp streaked across the Easter night sky like a blazing egg, leaving a long trail of light behind it. People the world over were also deeply affected by the death of Princess Diana in an automobile accident that August. In Germany, public debate flared over efforts to introduce compulsory social insurance contributions on "610-mark jobs"-jobs of fewer than 15 hours per week with pay of no more than 610 marks per month, which were not subject to taxes, unemployment insurance, social security contributions, or other social taxes.
|Photo: Philipp Salzgeber, 1997; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Comet-Hale-Bopp-29-03-1997.jpeg
|Photo: Georges Biard, 1987; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Princess_Diana_Cannes.jpg
In 1997, mini-Jobs were still barely covered in the official statistics. The SOEP contributed to the public discussion of this highly controversial issue of labor market and social policy by providing current data. In a DIW Wochenbericht based on the SOEP data, Volker Meinhardt, Jürgen Schupp, Johannes Schwarze, and Gert G. Wagner made the bold prediction that the number of employees in Germany was underestimated by 2 million ("Erwerbsstatistik unterschätzt Beschäftigung um 2 Millionen Personen," Jürgen Schupp, Johannes Schwarze, Gert G. Wagner, DIW Wochenbericht no. 34, 1997, pp. 689-696). Shortly thereafter, the federal statistical office corrected its official employment figures accordingly.
In another study published as a DIW Wochenbericht, Volker Meinhardt, Jürgen Schupp, Johannes Schwarze and Gert G. Wagner addressed the introduction of compulsory social insurance contributions for 610-mark jobs and the elimination of the lump sum tax in Germany (DIW Wochenbericht no. 45, 1997). Their conclusion: introducing social insurance contributions on these jobs would only be sensible if the lump sum tax on employers were simultaneously eliminated. In the authors' view, this would help to compensate employers for the additional costs.
And, in the 38th SOEP Newsletter, the SOEP team announced the first in a series of SOEP collectibles-planned eventually to comprise a box set of "SOEP devotional objects"-now available for SOEP users to purchase. The limited-edition SOEP clock in "classic CD style" was, according to the newsletter, "the perfect accessory for creative and successful work (not only) with the SOEP data."
In 1996, Dolly the sheep was born as the first mammal to be cloned successfully and to survive to adulthood. Germany claimed its third European Championship in soccer with a team lead by former GDR national team player Matthias Sammer (Video: Interview Sammer (in German)).
And after Germany’s “Sunday baking ban” on commercial bakeries was lifted, people across Germany were finally able to buy fresh breakfast rolls on Sundays.
Photo: Tim Vickers: Dolly the Sheep at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dollyscotland_%28crop%29.jpg
That same year, the SOEP made its first regional indicators available to data users (Regional Data in the SOEP Data Set). These indicators on the levels of the states (Bundesländer), spatial planning regions, districts, and postal codes could now be linked with the SOEP household data. Through the linkage of SOEP data with regional data from the Federal Environment Agency, educational economist Katharina Spieß found that increased carbon monoxide exposure as well as increased ozone exposure can harm children even before they are born (Focus article reffering to the study by Spieß (in German)). Economists Conrad Burchardi and Tarek Hassan determined that after the end of the GDR, economic power increased in regions where large numbers of West Germans had had close relationships with East Germans.
Press Release, 4th of November 2011 (in German)
And in the year 1996, Volume 7 of the SOEP book series “Socio-Economic Data and Analyses on the Federal Republic of Germany” appeared: a reader on social reporting from a longitudinal perspective. It was compiled and edited by Wolfgang Zapf - one of the two founders of the SOEP study and the pioneer of German social indicator research - together with Jürgen Schupp and Roland Habich. In the 17 articles contained in the reader, authors sought to establish a stronger connection between long-term observation and theory-driven analysis and to make the SOEP known to a broader German-speaking research community.
Zapf, Wolfgang; Schupp, Jürgen und Habich, Roland (1996): Lebenslagen im Wandel: Sozialberichterstattung im Längsschnitt, Frankfurt/M. - New York: Campus.
In 1995, the number of Internet-connected computers worldwide reached over three million. Since the previous year, the number of commercial Internet users had surpassed the number of scientific users. That year at a workshop at the Swiss institute CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), where the World Wide Web was born, 250 journalists from across Europe learned an innovative new research method: that of "surfing the Internet." In the United States, E-bay was founded, and has since remained the largest online auction and shopping website worldwide. And here in Germany, brothers Michael and Matthias Greve created the first German Internet directory at the address http://web.de. When it was launched, web.de already listed 2,500 sites that could be searched by keyword, name, or category.
In early 1995, the SOEP Newsletter went online for data users worldwide. SOEP Newsletter number 27 from January 1995 explained in detail how to use the SOEP’s new information platform: "At the DIW homepage on the World Wide Web, you will find what is known as a ‘link’ to the SOEP," the newsletter reads. "There, we provide extensive general information about the project, lists of publications and data users, as well as the current issue of the SOEP Newsletter. Users are also ‘guided’ to the relevant e-mail addresses in the project group." The contact listed for questions or suggestions about the SOEP’s use of this new technology was then-Survey Manager and current SOEP Director Jürgen Schupp. His e-mail address at that time was: DIW238PS@DB0DIW11.DIW-BERLIN.DE.
Extract from the SOEP Survey Paper 130.
The SOEPnewsletter has been informing SOEP users about events, new publications by SOEP researchers, workshops and training programs, and new developments in data distribution four times annually since 1985.
Current information on the SOEP Newsletter can be found here.
The old newsletters have been published as SOEP Survey Papers.
Computers weren’t yet on every desk as Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen had imagined, but they were spreading. The technical foundations for computer networks had been laid, the Internet had been born, and the first browsers and search engines had been developed. In 1994, the German magazine Der Spiegel launched "Spiegel online", the Japanese Prime Minister and the lower house of British parliament went online, and the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) made its debut on the World Wide Web. History of the internet (in German)
1994 was also the year that the SOEP had its first evaluation by the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat). At stake in this evaluation was the future funding for the SOEP after the conclusion of funding in the framework of Collaborative Research Center SfB 3. In the evaluators’ report, they emphasized that the SOEP had become an important tool for social and economic research both within Germany and abroad. They wrote that the SOEP would provide outstanding empirical material for longitudinal studies and for the analysis of economic and social science questions. And, they recommended that the SOEP group should continue to receive funding and should be provided a secure institutional base as an independent department of DIW Berlin. Furthermore, they proposed that the SOEP should receive joint funding from the federal and state (Länder) governments as a service unit of “Blue List” (Blaue Liste) research institutions. Three years later, the Blue List evolved into the Leibniz Association (WGL), of which the SOEP is still a part to this day.
Evaluation of the SOEP services by the science council (in German)
Informations about the Leibniz Association
The year 1993 brought with it a series of changes for life in Germany: five-digit postal codes were introduced, and a small refrigerator factory from the former GDR, together with Greenpeace International, produced the first HFC-free refrigerator in the world (see Greenpeace-Blog). And that same year, Heide Simonis was elected Minister President of Schleswig Holstein, making her the first woman to serve as Minister President of a German Bundesland.
In the Socio-Economic Panel, the tenth survey wave was collected in 1993, and the first International SOEP User Conference was held to celebrate this milestone. On June 7 and 8, 1993, 30 researchers from around the world met in the old headquarters of the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin on Gendarmenmarkt (in the former East Berlin) and presented their research on the SOEP data. Many of the papers were internationally comparative studies based on the new Cross-National Equivalent File (CNEF), a project that had been initiated in the early 1990s by Prof. Richard Burkhauser. Among the presenters at the first conference was American economist Alan Krueger from Princeton University, who, together with co-author Jörn-Steffen Pischke, had used the SOEP data in a study on the East and West German labor markets before and after unification. Krueger went on to become an advisor to US Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The current chairman of the German Council of Economic Experts, Christoph M. Schmidt, also presented a SOEP-based analysis of return immigration to Germany at the conference.
Since its premiere, the SOEP User Conference has been taking place regularly every two years. A total of around 600 studies have been presented at the ten SOEP conferences to date, and ten volumes of conference proceedings have been published in two different specialist journals: first in the DIW-Vierteljahrsheften zur Wirtschaftsforschung, and then in the Journal of Applied Social Science Studies (Schmollers Jahrbuch).
At midnight on January 1, 1992, the newly founded public television stations of the “new” German federal states went on the air. And with that, GDR television had come to an end. The new stations kept some of the employees of the former state-controlled East German broadcaster, Deutscher Fernsehfunk (DFF), as well as several popular East German TV personalities and programs. One of these was the legendary DFF Television Ballet, then the only televised dance show in Europe, which is still shown today on Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR), the regional TV channel for Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. MDR-Video, end of GDR television (German)
Although it was officially not allowed, many GDR citizens preferred to watch West German television. But for around 15 percent of the GDR population – those residing in the northeast part of the country around Greifswald and in the southeast around Dresden – it was impossible to pick up West German TV signals due to the topography. How did reception of East and West German television affect the personal attitudes of East German citizens? To find out, SOEP researcher Tanja Hennighausen of the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) and the University of Mannheim analyzed GDR survey data from the late 1980s along with SOEP data from the 1990s. Her results show that East Germans who were able to receive West German television tended to believe that success in life depends more on effort than on luck. This effect was still apparent ten years after reunification. In her study, Hennighausen speculated that this was because of ideas portrayed in West German films and soap operas that tended reinforce the notion that success in life is related to effort, thus affecting viewers’ attitudes.
Tanja Hennighausen: Exposure to Television and Individual Beliefs: Evidence from a Natural Experiment, SOEPpaper 535.
1991 marked the beginning of Yugoslavia’s bloody civil war. In June, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, followed by Macedonia in November. Under the direction of Generals Veljko Kadijević and Blagoje Adžić, the Yugoslavian People’s Army attempted to crush the independence movement by military force – but failed. In 1992, the conflict widened to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The flood of Yugoslavian refugees into many countries of Europe, but especially Germany, was almost impossible to contain: 14,744 people applied for asylum in Germany in the month of October alone, compared to around 22,000 in the entire previous year. Magazine article refugees from former Yugoslavia (in German)
Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Evstafiev-bosnia-travnik-girl-doll-refugee.jpg
The influx of refugees from the former Yugoslavia was also reflected in the development of the SOEP sample. Not only did the number of immigrants from Yugoslavia increase, but the net case number in the SOEP immigration subsample increased as well over the previous year.
SOEP 1991 - Methodenbericht zum Befragungsjahr 1991 (Welle 8 – West) des Sozio-oekonomischen Panels
Since its inception, the SOEP study has included a special immigration sample (subsample B) of households with a household head from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece, or the former Yugoslavia. The SOEP is the largest longitudinal survey of foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany today. Research based on the SOEP data has shown, among other things, that immigrants often live in segregated communities for both economic and social reasons. Researchers have also found that immigrants develop a connection to one of the German political parties relatively soon after coming to Germany. And they have shown that the German educational system tends more to restrict than to foster the potential of second-generation immigrants.
Today there are more than 15 million first- and second-generation immigrants living in Germany; the number of new immigrants has risen significantly over the last several years. To gain a clearer picture of these people’s lives, the SOEP is working together with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg to start a new IAB-SOEP immigration sample that will be representative for this population group. Starting this year, a total of 2,500 households with an immigration background across all of Germany will be surveyed as part of this new sample.
Just 327 days passed between the fall of the Wall and German reunification. On October 3, 1990, East Germans defeated the Socialist Unity Party regime and elected Lothar de Maizière Prime Minister in the first and only democratic elections in GDR history. West German Chancellor Kohl took advantage of this opportune moment. Together with the four occupying powers, West German diplomats negotiated with representatives of the new GDR government over the incorporation of the five states of East Germany into the FRG. The monetary, economic, and social union between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic entered into force on July 1, 1990. (Magazine article German reunification (in German))
The researchers in the SOEP were also determined to seize this historic opportunity. They set aside the idea of adding a new sample of East German immigrants to the FRG to the SOEP longitudinal sample. After all, the rapid changes taking place in Germany would have quickly rendered such a sample obsolete. Instead, the SOEP team quickly set plans in motion to create a GDR panel. Their goal was to obtain a first baseline measurement of incomes in the ‘old’ GDR currency. By early April, the SOEP group, together with colleagues from the Institute for Sociology and Social Policy at the German Academy of Sciences in the GDR had developed a first integrated questionnaire, which they used to survey 50 households in East Berlin. (SOEP 1990 – Bericht über eine Vorerhebung für die "Basiserhebung 1990" des Sozio-ökonomischen Panels in der DDR (Pretestbericht)).
Then, in June 1990, interviewers from TNS Infratest carried out the first survey in East Germany. They interviewed 2,179 households with 4,453 adults and 1,591 children living in them. “The end of the GDR took us by surprise, but we reacted quickly,” said then-SOEP director Gert G. Wagner in a recently released short film on the last 30 years of the SOEP. “The people in the GDR were happy that they were being interviewed. Never again since then have we encountered the kind of enthusiasm and the high response rates that we had in what was then still the GDR.” (The history of the SOEP (video)).”
From the brochure for the respondents in 1990
„Von der Wende waren wir wirklich überrascht, aber wir reagierten schnell“, sagt der damalige SOEP-Leiter Gert G. Wagner im Kurzfilm zu 30 Jahren SOEP. „Die Menschen in der DDR waren froh, dass sie befragt wurden. Wir hatten nie mehr eine derartige Begeisterung und derart hohe Ausschöpfungsquoten, wie wir sie in der 'Noch-DDR' hatten“. Interviewausschnitt auf Youtube
Now, in the almost 23 years since reunification, has former Chancellor Willy Brandt's vision that "what belongs together now grows together" been realized? In 2010, SOEP researcher Peter Krause and Ilona Ostner, a sociologist at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, published the most comprehensive social scientific overview of German unity to date. According to their findings, after reunification, living conditions in East and West Germany converged quickly. For example, the percentage of single parent households in both parts of Germany rose, and the number childless and single households increased as well. Life satisfaction in East Germany increased substantially in the 1990s but still remained a significantly lower than that in the West. "Differences between East and West still exist in many areas," says Peter Krause. "But they depend much more on the concrete living conditions in a specific place than on whether people or their parents lived on one or the other side of the inner-German border." The researchers' findings were published in an anthology (in German) and some articles from this book were published separately as a DIW-Wochenbericht.
Anthology: Krause, Peter und Ilona Ostner (2010). Leben in Ost- und Westdeutschland: Eine sozialwissenschaftliche Bilanz der deutschen Einheit 1990-2010. Frankfurt a. M./New York: Campus.
Press release: 20 Jahre Wiedervereinigung: Wie weit Ost- und Westdeutschland zusammengerückt sind