Working papers // Department of Economics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey 2006,31
East Germany, a unique socialist command economy prior to the 1990s, underwent rapid transition to a market-oriented economic system. This transition has been of intense interest given the environment of Eastern Germany vis-a-vis Western Germany, a setting different from most other transition economies. However, changes in the Eastern wage structure during transition demonstrates considerable similarity to that occurring in other transition economies. During the course of this transition, East Germany experienced big increases in both its wage level and wage dispersion. From 1990 to 2000 real wages in East Germany for men aged 20-60 rose by 118%, while various inequality measures indicate an increase in wage inequality of 25 to 61%. This paper studies the causes of this growth in wages and the changes in wage inequality, the first two moments of the wage distribution. We find that changes in the wage structure due to the transition explains most of wage growth and inequality change in East Germany. Most of the increases occur at the beginning of the transition. We compare our 1990-2000 results for East Germany to West German wage earners during the same period in order to investigate whether convergences took place in terms of mean (level) and dispersion (inequality).