One Country, One Identity? Working Class Identity in East and West Germany Since Reunification

About this Session


Fri. 08.04. 09:30



Speaker: Gundula Zoch, Co-Author: Patrick Präg

Research has highlighted the critical role of institutional and structural conditions for individual life-courses and identities, suggesting long-lasting regime-specific socialization effects. We exploit the case of formerly divided Germany to examine the extent to which working class identification (WCI) in the East and West has converged and whether differences in social class identification are still relevant 30 years after reunification. Theories of cohort replacement and life-course changes suggest that East Germans should have adapted their ideologies to the post-reunification context, resulting in class identity convergence due to a more similar institutional and socialization context following reunification. Drawing on fifteen waves of nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional survey data (Allbus, 1991–2018), results from LPM show that from 1991 to 2018 the share of East Germans identifying as working class fell from 61 percent to 40 percent. Yet, East–West differences in WCI remain substantial, confirming the existence of long-lasting ideology differences due to regime-specific socialization, and a persistently altered composition of society in East and West. Using a counterfactual decomposition approach, we show that although important shifts in population composition have taken place, the decline of WCI in East Germany was more likely driven by value change that took place at the same time.