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Let Bygones Be Bygones? Socialist Regimes and Personalities in Germany

SOEPpapers 776, 75 S.

Tim Friehe, Markus Pannenberg, Michael Wedow


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This paper investigates the influence of political regimes on personality, using the separation of Germany into the socialist GDR and the democratic FRG and its reunification in 1990 as a natural experiment. We show that there are significant differences between former GDR and FRG residents regarding important attributes of personality (particularly the locus of control, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness). To understand the influence of the GDR's socialist regime on personality, we test an important channel by exploiting regional variation in the number of unofficial state-security collaborators across East German counties. Our results indicate that local surveillance intensity is indeed an important determinant of the personality of former GDR citizens. The differences in personality imply that former citizens of the GDR have economic prospects rather different from former FRG citizens and help to understand behavioral differences established in the prior literature.

Topics: Personality

JEL-Classification: D03;D12;D63
Keywords: personality, political regime, East Germany, socialism, Big Five, locus of control, SOEP
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