IZA DP No. 419: The Value of Reunification in Germany: An Analysis of Changes in Life Satisfaction
published in: Journal of Human Resources, 2004, 39 (3), 649-674
We quantify the value of changes in life circumstances in Germany following reunification. To this end, we develop and implement a fixed-effect estimator for ordinal life satisfaction in the German Socio-Economic Panel. We find strong negative effects on life satisfaction from being recently fired, losing a spouse through either death or separation and time spent in hospital, whilst we find strong positive effects from income and marriage. Using a new causal decomposition technique, we find that East Germans experienced a continued improvement in life satisfaction after 1990 to which increased household incomes contributed around 12%. Most of the increase is explained by improved average circumstances, such as public services. For West Germans, we find virtually no change in satisfaction between 1991 and 1999.