Institutional Change and Family Formation. Exploiting the Natural Social Experiment of the Reunification of East and West Germany in 1989

Anette E. Fasang, Yale University
Joerg Luedicke, Yale University
Karl Ulrich Mayer, Yale University

Family formation patterns vary greatly across countries, yet we know little about which institutional conditions drive this variation (Elzinga & Liefbroer 2007). We use the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989 as a natural social experiment to study how rapid and massive institutional change affects women’s family formation patterns between age 15 and 34. The study is based on a historical comparative cohort design following the logic of a difference-in-difference design. We propose an application of bootstrap re-sampling methods to recent innovations in sequence analysis (Aisenbrey & Fasang 2010, Lesnard 2010) to analyze family formation processes holistically. Findings from the German Life History study show a rapid diversification of East German family formation with the break-down of the regulative communist state and the insecurities and turmoil of the transition process. Our findings forcefully demonstrate the sensitivity of family formation to rapid and massive institutional change.

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Presented in Session 41: Families in Comparative Perspective