Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 141–165 | Cite as

The erosion of union membership in Germany: determinants, densities, decompositions

  • Bernd FitzenbergerEmail author
  • Karsten Kohn
  • Qingwei Wang
Original Paper


Unionization in Germany has declined considerably during the last two decades. We estimate the impact of socioeconomic and workplace-related variables on union membership by means of Chamberlain-Mundlak correlated random effects probit models, using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel. Drawing on the estimates, we project net union densities (NUD) and analyze the differences between East and West Germany, as well as the corresponding changes in NUD over time. Nonlinear Blinder-Oaxaca-type decompositions show that changes in the composition of the work force have only played a minor role for the deunionization trends in West and East Germany. In West-East comparison, differences in the characteristics of the work force reflect a lower quality of membership matches in East Germany right after German unification.


Union membership Correlated random effects probit model Decomposition analysis 

JEL Classification




We thank the editor and two anonymous referees for helpful comments, which led to major improvements of the paper. We are also grateful to Martin Biewen and participants of the EALE meeting 2006 in Prague and the International Symposium on Contemporary Labor Economics 2006 in Xiamen for fruitful discussions, as well as to Andrej Gill and Alexander Lembcke for excellent research assistance. The paper was written as part of the research project “Collective Bargaining and the Distribution of Wages: Theory and Empirical Evidence” within the DFG research network “Flexibility in Heterogeneous Labor Markets” (FSP 1169). Financial support from the German Science Foundation (DFG) is gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimer applies.

Supplementary material

148_2009_299_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (188 kb)
(PDF 188 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernd Fitzenberger
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  • Karsten Kohn
    • 3
    • 5
  • Qingwei Wang
    • 2
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsAlbert-Ludwigs-University FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.ZEWMannheimGermany
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany
  4. 4.IFSLondonUK
  5. 5.KfW BankengruppeFrankfurt am MainGermany
  6. 6.University of MannheimMannheimGermany

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