From the Working Class to the New Underclass?
A new study by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development analyses the causes and consequences of young women leaving the new German states: the regions are becoming poorer – socially, economically and demographically. A subset consisting of the men who stayed behind has formed a new underclass.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, over 1.5 million people have left their hometowns in the new German federal states – approximately 10 percent of the population during the reunification period. Above all, people who were young, qualified and female moved away in large numbers. As a consequence, the proportion of young women aged 18 to 29 is small, especially in remote, economically and structurally weak regions. Accordingly, there is a 25 percent or higher excess of men in these regions. Such shortages of women cannot be found anywhere else in Europe. Even Arctic Circle regions in northern Sweden and Finland, where young women in particular have traditionally migrated to the cities, do not show figures comparable to those in eastern Germany.
The authors of the study Men in Crisis see educational advancement as the main reason for young women’s disproportionate migration: the higher achievement levels of female pupils – which can be observed throughout Germany – is much more evident in the East, above all in its economically exposed areas. Since young women get better grades than their male counterparts, they have an easier time finding training or job opportunities in other places.
The ramifications for the affected regions go far beyond the loss of female inhabitants alone. The new German states also lack around 100,000 children. The process of economic and social erosion is also being accelerated. While the girls lay the groundwork for possible migration through high achievement, boys are falling progressively behind – probably due to demoralisation at the prospect of unemployment produced by the surplus of young men typical of their environments.
Click here (PDF, 4.63 MB) to view the full German version of the study.
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