»Living in Germany«

The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study offers microdata for research in the social, economic, and behavioral sciences. Like a high-powered telescope providing data to researchers worldwide, SOEP acts as an observatory for social phenomena. The data are used not only for basic academic research but also for social policy reports aimed at a broader audience.

SOEP is a wide-ranging representative longitudinal study of private households in Germany. The same private households, persons and families have been surveyed annually since 1984. 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. An immigrant sample was added as well to account for the changes that took place in Germany society in 1994/95. Further new samples were added to include special sub-populations or to stabilize sample size (see figure below).

The data provide information on objective living conditions, values, willingness to take risks, current social changes, and the relationships and interdependencies among all these areas. SOEP places great value on integrating users’ input for improvements and theory-based extensions to the survey. We even implemented an innovation panel (see SOEP-IS) recently.

SOEP data open up a range of unique analytical possibilities for research through:

  • Longitudinal data: panel design
  • Household context: all adult household members are surveyed
  • Regional comparisons: use of geo-code context indicators are possible (from federal states to geo coordinates)
  • Migrants: the largest regular survey of foreigners and immigrants in the Federal Republic of Germany, including households whose head is Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Greek or former Yugoslavian as well as ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe ((Spät-)Aussiedler). The SOEP currently includes three migration samples (1984, 1994, 2013).

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Thematic areas

SOEP data cover a wide range of subjects including:

  • Demography and population
  • Work and employment
  • Income, taxes and social security
  • Family and social networks
  • Health and care
  • Home, amenities, and contributions of private households
  • Education and qualification
  • Attitudes, values and personality
  • Time use and environmental behavior
  • Integration, migration, transnationalization
  • Survey methodology

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Specialized questionnaires across the life course

The questioning population of the SOEP are private households and their members who reach the age of 17.

Since the year 2000, data on issues related specifically to children and teenagers have been collected through the Youth Questionnaire distributed to all 16- to 17-year-old household members.

Since 2003, a questionnaire given to mothers of newborns provides information on central indicators that can help to better understand child development. From the year 2005 on, parents of two- to three-year-old children have received a special questionnaire. In the year 2008, the parents of five-to-six year-old children were surveyed; since 2010, the parents of seven-to eight-year-old children have been surveyed and since 2013 also parents of nine-to ten-year old children. Thus, since the 2003 birth cohort, the SOEP is also a real cohort study.

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Who can analyse the data?

Access to the scientific use file of the SOEP with anonymous microdata is possible through our Research Data Center. Universities and research institutes can use the SOEP data for research and teaching purposes free of charge. Use of the data is subject to special regulations. German data privacy laws necessitate that all users sign a data user contract with DIW Berlin. More than 500 research groups in Germany and around the world are currently working with SOEP data.

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Cross-National Equivalent Files

The »Cross-National Equivalent Files« (CNEF) contain panel data from Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland.

For further information on the CNEF see:
The Cross-National Equivalent File (CNEF) and its Member Country Household Panel Studies
In: Schmollers Jahrbuch, Vol. 127, No. 4 (2007), S. 627-654
(Joachim R. Frick, Stephen P. Jenkins, Dean R. Lillard, Oliver Lipps, and Mark Wooden)

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Selected publications

Selected publications:

Eichhorst, Werner and Paul Marx (Hrsg.). 2015. Non-Standard Employment in Post-Industrial Labour Markets: An Occupational Perspective. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Ehlert, Martin. 2016. The Impact of Losing Your Job: Unemployment and Influences from Market, Family, and State on Economic Well-Being in the US and Germany. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. (

Britzke, Janina and Jürgen Schupp (Hrsg.). 2018. SOEP Wave Report 2017 (PDF, 5.33 MB). Berlin: DIW Berlin.

Hertel, Florian R. 2016. Social Mobility in the 20th Century: Class Mobility and Occupational Change in the United States and Germany. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. (

Kemayou, Yanick. 2016. More Class in Management Research: The Relationship between Socioeconomic Background and Managerial Attitudes. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler

Lersch, Philipp M. 2014. Residential Relocations and their Consequences - Life course effects in England and Germany. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.  (

Weimann, Joachim, Andreas Knabe, and Ronnie Schöb. 2016. Measuring Happiness: The Economics of Well-Being. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.

Overview article:

Frick, Joachim. R., Stephen P. Jenkins, Dean R. Lillard, Oliver Lipps, and Mark Wooden (2007): The Cross-National Equivalent File (CNEF) and its Member Country Household Panel Studies. Schmollers Jahrbuch 127 (4), 626-654.

Goebel, Jan, Grabka, Markus M., Liebig, Stefan, Kroh, Martin, Richter, David, Schröder, Carsten, and Jürgen Schupp. 2019. The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik / Journal of Economics and Statistics 239 (2), 345-360.

Wagner, Gert G., Joachim R. Frick, and Jürgen Schupp. 2007. The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) - Scope, Evolution and Enhancements. Schmollers Jahrbuch 127 (1), 139-169.


More selected publications can be found here.

For all research results and publications based on SOEP data please see our SOEPlit database.

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