SOEP data access must comply with high security standards for maintaining confidentiality and protecting personal privacy. The data are also subject to regulations limiting their use to scientific purposes, that is, they are only made available to the scientific community (in German language only). After conclusion of a data distribution contract with DIW Berlin, the data of every new wave will be available on request via personalized encrypted download. Researchers can also use small-scale regional data at the SOEP Research Data Center (see Regional Data).
The Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study is a wide-ranging, nationally representative longitudinal study of private households across Germany that was launched in 1984. It is based at DIW Berlin. Every year, nearly 15,000 households and more than 25,000 individuals are surveyed for the SOEP-Core study by the fieldwork organization Kantar Public (TNS Infratest up to 2017).
Since its inception, the SOEP’s goal has been to collect and provide representative microdata that allow researchers to study stability and change in living conditions. Its approach is micro-econometric, with added variables from sociology and political science (influenced by the social indicator movement).The data provide information on all members of households in both the former East and West, including foreigners, and recent immigrants to Germany. The study was launched in 1984. Some of the many topics include household composition, occupational biographies, employment, earnings, health and satisfaction indicators. As early as June 1990—even before the Economic, Social and Monetary Union—SOEP expanded to include the states of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), thus seizing the rare opportunity to observe the transformation of an entire society. Immigrant and refugee samples were added to account for the changes that took place in German society in 1994/95, 2013, 2015, and 2016. Further new samples were added in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2012.
Since Version 31 (10.5684/soep.v31), the SOEP has included the complete data from “Familien in Deutschland” (Families in Germany, FiD), which has been integrated retrospectively into the SOEP and made available for analysis in user-friendly form. The FiD survey was carried out in parallel to the SOEP from 2010 to 2013 as a "SOEP-related study". The most recent version of the SOEP-Core data contains data from the migration and refugee samples, which have been integrated into SOEP-Core. The SOEP survey is constantly being adapted and developed in response to current social developments. The international version of the SOEP-Core data contains 95% of all cases surveyed.
The SOEP Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS) was launched as a special panel for both short-term experiments and longer-term surveys that are unsuitable for SOEP-Core for various reasons—whether because the instruments are not yet established or because the topic under investigation is too narrow or specialized for the broader survey. SOEP-IS started with SOEP-Core Samples E (from 1998) and I (from 2009) and added new samples in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016 to achieve a target sample size of 5,000 respondents.
Conducted annually since 2011, the SOEP-IS survey includes both “innovation modules” and standard questions from SOEP-Core. Researchers at universities and research institutes worldwide are invited to use this sample for their research projects. Since 2013, all innovation modules in SOEP-IS have been chosen through a juried competition in which a panel of experts evaluates submissions for the best research questions and operationalizations.
The SOEP Research Data Center provides the SOEP-IS data to outside researchers as an independent dataset for scientific research. Kantar Public Deutschland GmbH has been commissioned to conduct the survey using specially trained interviewers to administer personal computer-based interviews (CAPI) across Germany. The SOEP-IS data are nationally representative and include information on income, employment, education, and health.
In addition to data from our main studies, SOEP-Core and SOEP-IS, the SOEP Research Data Center (SOEP-RDC) offers a number of other datasets. These provide diverse possibilities for data linkage in spatial or regional analysis, for example.
Household panels in general—and the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in particular—can serve as reference data for researchers collecting datasets that are not representative of an entire population (e.g., data from clinical trials, intervention studies, laboratory or behavioral experiments, or cohort studies).
The Research Data Center of the SOEP provides the special service of consulting personally with researchers who want to use SOEP as a reference data set or as a control sample for their own studies. One aspect of this service is tailored advice to researchers on how to design their own longitudinal studies. Recommendations are given not only on questionnaire design and survey questions but also on specific survey techniques such as the tracking rule, which makes it possible to follow cohort members as well as their children and grandchildren, spouses, and other relatives over time.
SOEP data sets are available for your use in university for teaching.
We are now providing two different datasets depending on your teaching needs:
For analytical and didactic applications in university teaching, the SOEP provides a simple practice dataset in panel format that you can use free of charge without registering as a SOEP user.
As a registered user of the SOEP data, you can use the comprehensive teaching dataset.
The SOEP data are also part of international data sets. The enrichment, linking and harmonisation of SOEP survey data with household (panel) data from other countries is a particular concern of SOEP in terms of content and methodology.
We present data sets with which you can analyze Germany in an international comparison.