Internal Migration in Germany, 1995-2010: New Insights into East-West Migration and Re-urbanisation

Nikola Sander


Over the last two decades, patterns of internal migration in Germany have been discussed under the headings of East-West movements and sub- and re-urbanisation. This paper argues that the intense scientific and public debate that ignited about the possible causes and consequences of internal migration should be based on a clear understanding of how internal migration flows impact on regional population change. Using the German Internal Migration (GIM) database, a unique new dataset that holds annual interregional migration counts drawn from the population register for 397 regions with temporally consistent boundaries, this paper aims to provide a more comprehensive picture of the spatial structure of inter-county migration in Germany and how it has changed over the period 1995-2010. To reduce the complexity of the county-level flow data and to facilitate the identification of patterns and trends, county-to-county flows were analysed using a spatial framework of 132 “analytical regions”. The results show that the intensity of migration between East German regions has been higher than East-West migration throughout the period, suggesting that the former type of migration has a stronger impact on rural population decline than commonly believed in the literature. Following a strong suburbanisation pattern in the 1990s, over the last decade, migration between counties in eastern Germany has resulted in a growing concentration of population in the cities of Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. Increasing net migration gains were recorded by many urban cores across Germany. The trend was driven by both continuing in-migration of young adults in search for education and employment, and by a cessation of the long-term trend of family out-migration to the cities’ suburban and non-metropolitan hinterlands.


Internal migration; East-West; Reurbanisation; Regional population change; Germany


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