SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research No. 435
This paper examines regional differences in subjective well-being (SWB) in Germany. Inferential statistics indicate a diminishing but still significant gap between East and West Germany, but also differing levels of SWB within both parts. The observed regional pattern of life satisfaction reflects macroeconomic fundamentals, where labor market conditions play a dominant role. Differing levels of GDP and economic growth have contributed rather indirectly to regional well-being such that the years since the German reunification can be considered as a period of joyless growth. In total, approximately half of satisfaction gap between East and West Germany can be attributed to differing macroeconomic conditions. Moreover, the effects of unemployment and income differ in size between regions such that one can assume increasing marginal disutility of unemployment. The comparably high levels of life satisfaction in Northern Germany are driven mostly by couples and go along with significantly higher fertility rates. Overall, we conclude that comparisons of SWB within a single country provide valid information.