In 1990, German unification led to an abrupt and extensive restructuring of the educational system and economy of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) as the latter was reintegrated into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). However, the consequences of this large-scale institutional change for the educational inequality between children from different social class backgrounds in East Germany continue to be poorly understood. This article seeks to shed new light on this question by using a quasi-experimental approach to examine the difference in educational inequality between East and West Germany before and after German unification. We compare changes in the class gradient in the attainment of comparable school and university qualifications in East and West Germany across six birth cohorts, including three cohorts of individuals who completed their schooling after unification. We find that before unification, inequality of educational opportunity at the mid-secondary, upper-secondary and tertiary level was substantially lower in East Germany than in West Germany and that unification led to a substantial and sustained convergence of the level of inequality of educational opportunity in East Germany towards that of West Germany.
Betthäuser, B. A. (2019). The Effect of the Post-Socialist Transition on Inequality of Educational Opportunity: Evidence from German Unification. European Sociological Review, 35(4), 461–473. https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcz012