Germany fact of the day, the growing north-south divide

The gap between the unemployment rates in north and south, for instance, will soon be wider than that between east and west (see chart 2). In the New Social Market Economy Initiative’s education rankings, Saxony and Thuringia took the two highest places among Germany’s 16 states while Berlin and Brandenburg, also eastern states, took the two lowest. The north-south divide on life expectancy is now greater than the east-west one; women in Baden-Württemberg and Saxony live the longest. According to André Wolf of the Hamburg Global Economics Institute, “in the medium term the north-south differential could definitely supersede the (current) east-west one.”

In 1960, however, Bavaria was the poorest part of West Germany.

That is from The Economist.


'In 1960, however, Bavaria was the poorest part of West Germany.'

Well, it was full of ethnic Catholics, and we all know how that works thanks to Weber -

Though oddly, even as they defy a German Verfassungsgericht order and continue to hang crucifixes in public classrooms, the Bavarians seem to have remained as thoroughly Catholic as they were in 1960, or 1860, for that matter. And Saxony is also a traditionally Catholic realm. Meaning that the Economist article could have noted that an updated Weber book could be written, called the Catholic Ethic And the Spirit of Capitalism, with a solid chance to be one of sociology's most influential books of the 21st century. Or one could think that economists and sociologists are hopeless faddists, of course.

As a note - nobody in Baden-Württemberg considers Saxony 'southern' in any way, shape, or form. And the couple of Saxons I know absolutely reject the idea of being in any way, shape, or form described as 'southern.' In much the same fashion, if one were to draw a north/south line in the U.S., one would start talking about Pennsylvania as being a southern state due to how the line was drawn.

The Economist is welcome to create whatever narrative it wishes, of course, but the Karlsruher line comes a lot closer to how Germans (at least those living around Karlsruhe, oddly enough, regardless of where they grew up) view Germany's north/south divide, but it would ruin the article's premise. German only - (The Pfalz? Southern Germany. Rheinland? Not southern Germany. Rheinland-Pfalz? Flip a coin, no one really can decide, which is why people in the Pfalz and Rheinland generally use those terms separately, instead of combined, to describe themselves as individuals.)

Especially this sort of illusory narrative - 'Dresden has cleaner and less potholed roads, and better-kept social housing. Its unemployment, poverty and indebtedness rates are lower and its house prices higher. Yet it is in the formerly communist east; Bremen in the former west. The fact that Bremen is also in Germany’s poorer northern half, and Dresden in its richer south, is a more significant fact.' Taxpayers in Bremen have now spent decades transferring money to Sachsen - it is called the Solidaritätszuschlag ( German only - Government transfers can work, apparently, which somehow, the Economist neglects to mention. And this is simply wrong - 'while transfers from south to north are politically trickier' - no, the Länderfinanzausgleich has an even longer history than the Solidaritätszuschlag, stretching back to the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm 1.

'North and south are not yet distinct political blocs.'

And never will be - there is Bayern, and the rest of Germany. That will take generations to change.

Not just Baden-Württemberg - no one in the German speaking world considers Saxons "Southern". Try to find a decent weißwurst in Dresden. An alternative conclusion could be that regions that are more aggressive about retaining a German cultural identity are doing better than regions that don't.

There is no problem getting decent Weisswurst in Dresden. I live here.

Please don't take what I said about Pegida below personally then, and don't misunderstand - in most ways, West Germans are quite obnoxious when it comes to how they view East Germany.

'could be that regions that are more aggressive about retaining a German cultural identity'

You have just managed to insult a significant number of Badener, Schwaben, and Bayer, who feel their 'German cultural identity' follows their real cultural identity. And from my experience in the city, people in Cologne can stand toe to toe with New Yorkers for feeling their city is the center of the universe, with everyone else on the planet having an inferior cultural identity (particularly Düsseldorf).

‘Saxony is also a traditionally Catholic realm’
Saxony is Lutheran... Please take a plane to Leipzig and learn at the Nikolaikirche about the also Lutheran peaceful revolution which ended the DDR ( Then visit Dresden and learn about the Dresden Bombing and the Lutheran Frauenkirche ( This is basic important German history...

Thüringen and Hessen is also more Protestant than Catholic, while Baden-Württemberg is equally Catholic and Protestant.

‘the Bavarians seem to have remained as thoroughly Catholic as they were in 1960, or 1860, for that matter’
Not really... in 1860 Bavaria was around 70% catholic and 30% protestant; now it is 50% catholic, and the rest is atheist, protestant, muslim, etc.

But please go ahead and write the book. Please don't forget to see that in Bavaria, BW, and Hessen the more protestant areas are richer than the more catholic ones. Also don't forget that Bavaria, BW and Hessen benefited from being occupied by mainly Protestant USA ( Or how the south of BW benefits currently from the proximity to the strong calvinist economy of Switzerland (e.g. through Grenzgänger or Swiss buying in Germany) or the proximity to the centers of the EU Luxembourg and Strasbourg, funded by mainly protestant countries in Europe (e.g. through Grenzgänger, buying goods in Germany or proximity to European institutions).
Also don't you think that the catholic church is different now than in the past?

As noted below, but to make it more explict, I confused the still highly respected Catholic rulers of Saxony (at least according to the Saxons I know, including one from Dresden) with the people they ruled. Which included the Poles, but then that really starts to go off on a tangent.

Obviously, the Frauenkirche in Dresden is Lutheran, for example.

I live in BW, and the further south you go, the more Catholic it is, making this statement about as strange as saying the post war occupation by America was 'Protestant' - 'Or how the south of BW benefits currently from the proximity to the strong calvinist economy of Switzerland.'

This may come as a shock, except to someone actually familiar with Switzerland - 'The Federal Statistical Office reported the religious demographics as of 2015 as follows (based on the resident population age 15 years and older): 68% ±0.4% Christian (including 37.3% ±0.2% Roman Catholic, 24.9% ±0.2% Reformed, 5.8% ±0.1% other), 23.9% ±0.2% nonreligious, 5.0% ±0.1% Muslim, 0.2% ±0.0% Jewish, 1.4% ±0.0% other religions. (100%: 6,907,818, registered resident population age 15 years and older)'

(Yes, I will be checking first, which is always a good idea in general, of course.)

I am not sure which statement is strange...
That the US in the 1940s was 70% protestant is a fact (wiki it); and that protestants had a bigger impact on US institutions and culture than catholics is also true.

Your statistics does not come as a shock to me as I live in Switzerland. Obviously, I was not referring to the whole of Switzerland but just to the border region (from which BW benefits the most). If you actually read your Wiki articles, you would see the map that shows that the border region is more protestant than catholic - traditionally and currently. In addition, you would read that until the 90s switzerland was half protestant and half christian, and only changed due to recent catholic immigration (and maybe protestants more likely to become "atheist"?).

Finally, before you write your book, please read this article from Taleb ( and talk to non-christian people about religion.
In all governmental statistics I would be counted as an atheist, although I was raised catholic and am currently culturally protestant (if you read the article and talked to jews/muslims you would understand this sentence)! What Im trying to say is, dont just look at what the current official religion the region has, also analyze which "religion" the culture and institutions have (nb: culture and institutions, have a big impact on economic performance, as you know since you follow this blog).

My father back in the late 50s/early 60s got an affirmative action stipend for Catholics to go to university in physics. Working class background, my grandfather ran a small construction firm after the war's disruption of everyone's life. My father ended up tenured in math at a first tier university (in the South), now retired. This sort of affirmative action was never controversial as far as I can tell.

Looking in more detail at the Länderfinanzausgleich, there is also the Bundesergänzungszuweisungen, tax money distributed to the most needy states - strangely, Sachsen received the most of that money, and Thüringinia the 4th most, in 2013.

This table is fairly clear in terms of how much money has been transferred, and to whom -

It is striking just how much taxpayer based financing from the Economist's southern Germany has gone to the Economist's highlighted southern German success stories Sachsen and Thüringen. Obviously, clear proof that government transfers work, right?

Man - Thuringia or Thüringen, need to stick with one, as both are highlighted as incorrectly spelled.

Um, this is an English language site, there's no "umlaut" in the English alphabet.

Naïf -

OK, not a German umlaut, but English spelling is really, really flexible. Besides, the German trick for spelling without an umlaut is not hard - Thueringen or Muenchen, for example, at least when one is not using a German keyboard.

Aren't you being a little naïve? And uncoöperative?

There is. It's called a "metal trema" (Mötörhead anyone?)

No, no, no, government transfers can't work, the only possible conclusion is that Sachsen and Thüringen don't exist.

No, no, no, there can't be any success that's not a socialist success to, wait for it, socialists.

Distance from Switzerland is generally a good correlate across Europe with a slight decking education level (though more so in some directions than others). Deep roots.

The 1989 idea of the European Banana holds better than using Switzerlands as center

If all those regions in the Blue Banana converged, that might hold true. Alas, not really.

Aren't most of the big auto companies in Germany not in the North?


BMW is in Bavaria, Audi too

Mercedes Benz is in Suebia / Baden-Württemberg

Like I said, aren't most of these places that are home to the big German auto companies "not in the North?"

I didn't want to get into an argument with Germans over what is precisely South Germany, so I chose the locution "not in the North." Bavaria and Swabia would appear to this ignorant American to be "not in the North."

Porsche would appear to be not in the North too, while Volkswagen might be in either in North Germany or Central Germany.

BMW is in Bavaria

Nope, Munich. Which is southern germany, FTR.

Audi too

Audi is in Ingolstadt, which is a bit north of Muncih, but still southern Germany.

Mercedes is in Stuttgart, which is west of Ingolstadt.

So Sailer was completely correct. they're all southern Germany.

Munich just so happens to be state capital of Bavaria. And guess what the B in BMW stands for...
Geographically, Bavaria is in the south, culturally it is an entity of its own (note the name of Freistaat Bayern)

Sorry, misreading on my side, I overlooked your "not"

Saxony and Thuringa are overwhelming Lutheran, Bavaria decidly not so.

The divide is between conservative states and the left

For this you have to count CFA = (CDU+CSU + AfD) versus R2G (Red SPD, deep Red "Die Linke", and Greenies).

There is one special case : Baden-Württemberg, which used to be conservative. It now has a Greenie Prime minister, who nevertheless includes CDU chancellor Merkel in his daily prayers. Pretty different from the other mostly leftie greenies.

'Saxony ... overwhelming Lutheran'

Not precisely - 'Saxony has traditionally been predominantly Protestant (though the monarchs of the Saxon Kingdom themselves were Catholic as an ancestral relic of being Kings of Poland), but after World War II and 40 years of Communist rule, the majority of the population has become secular.' The people? Yes. Still revered rulers like Augustus II? No.

But they are very definitely not Catholic

Absolutely right - my mistake confusing some famous rulers' religion with the religion of the people they ruled.

Don't most Muslim immigrants move to the North of Germany?

Hmmm, I think they are like everywhere...

Well, as noted below, the east/west split is notable, leaving aside Berlin, which would heavily weight statistics in this case.


Refugees are equally distributed through Germany, at least initially -

Immigrants in contrast to refugees (Germans tend to consider the two terms the same, broadly) is another question. Downtown Mannheim, for example, is known in this region as 'Little Istanbul' (think 'Little Saigon' back when Ballston in NoVa was not a mass of high rise buildings), but Mannheim is also a city of roughly 300,000 people. Yet Cologne undoubtedly has a much higher absolute total number of Muslim inhabitants.

What is fair to say is that the regions and cities with the lowest Muslim population, such as essentially all of the former DDR and places like Dresden, Pegida's birthplace and a city that is something like 1.3% Muslim (from memory), are by far and away the most rabidly anti-Muslim

This article provides an overview of just how unrealistically people here look at the actual number of Muslims, looking at refuges/immigrants as a single block -

Quick searching did not bring up much specific information, but broadly speaking, no one here thinks there is a north/south split in where Muslims live. The east/west split, however, is very notable, and another reason West Germans tend to look down on what they consider ignorantly small minded East Germans. Which, at least in this specific case, actually has a demonstrable reality behind it. It is also why Pegida failed so miserably in gaining any traction in West Germany.

As a note - no one considers Cologne (Berlin is a bit more complicated with that whole Prussian association) to be 'northern Germany.' Freisland? Northern Germany. Rostock? Northern Germany. Hannover? Flip a coin, and the odds that a person from there will agree with whatever choice results is pretty much 50/50, it seems. From the Northern Germany wiki article, which sums it up pretty well - ' Its exact area is not precisely or consistently defined but varies depending on whether one is taking a linguistic, geographic, socio-cultural or historic standpoint.'

This article says most Muslims have lived in North Rhine-Westphalia, at least before the influx of refugees. Also, didn't you see A Most Wanted Man? Based in Hamburg!

One thing I'd note about recent immigrants is that many will likely to end up where established Middle Eastern/Muslim communities are, regardless of where they initially landed. This is dimilar to how many of these immigrants to the US end up in Southeast Michigan, despite the economy not being particularly strong thare. Of course this assumes they are permitted to move around the country.

Anyway, I'm not asserting any cause-effect, was just curious if I was correct about Muslims clustering in the North. Seems the answer is not really clear.

Pegida did not gain any traction anywhere outside Dresden.

Here they had the advantage of being first, and geting as large as some 25000 out of 500 000 people living in Dresden.
In all other places they became victims of political repression. Diffamation, discrimination, downright political violence.
Here they are marching every Monday, still 1500 - 2000 strong, over 100 times so far. Duracell rabbits are nothing compared to that.

I am no particular fan of Pegida. I lived for many years outside Germany and I helped a head scarf wearing lady with government mail, hospital staff, ..... Before that became fashionable Gutmenschen habit.

But I noticed many pretty shameless lies and slander by the left/green MSM press against the peaceful and constitutional Pegida demonstrators. I live just half an hour by foot away from it, and looked at it on occasion. And the salivating masked hoodlums from the other, left/green side.

And the local live reporters and the police reports were very clear. It was the anti-constitutional and violent left green "activists" who tried to get at the Pegida but had to attack the police for that first and foremost. But they do not shy away from hitting Pegidas over the head with an iron bar when the Police is not looking.

For looking at the potential, just look at the AfD votes, which are pretty much the same by now, and those are not very different in the East and West.

15% in Baden Württemberg, 21% in Meecklenburg-Vorpommern

' Duracell rabbits are nothing compared to that.'

The marchers against Stuttgart 21 have a considerably longer track record, and hard as it might be to imagine, the opponents of Stuttgart 21 were oppressed by the party that supported them.

'Der Protest äußert sich durch Bürgerbegehren, Petitionen, Infostände, Demonstrationen (insbesondere die wöchentlichen Montagsdemos) und gewaltfreien Protestaktionen. Seit Beginn der Planungen von Stuttgart 21 im Jahr 1996 gab es Proteste gegen das Projekt. Bundesweite Aufmerksamkeit erlangte die Protestbewegung im Jahr 2010 durch Großdemonstrationen mit mehreren zehntausend Bürgern und Protestaktionen. Daraufhin fanden Schlichtungsgespräche zwischen Projektbefürwortern und -gegnern statt, die live im Internet und im Fernsehen übertragen wurden. Die Proteste gegen Stuttgart 21 beeinflussten den Regierungswechsel in Baden-Württemberg nach der Landtagswahl 2011 und die Wahl des ersten grünen Oberbürgermeisters einer Landeshauptstadt im Oktober 2012. Zur Befriedung des Konflikts führte die grün-rote Landesregierung am 27. November 2011 eine Volksabstimmung zu Stuttgart 21 durch.'

There are always winners and losers in politics. However, in cities like Stuttgart or Karlsruhe or Mannheim, it was not government repression that caused Pegida to fail - it was that basically no one supported them at all. Here is some reporting from Stuttgart, pretty much the most conservative of the three cities - '300 Teilnehmer hat der Veranstalter der ersten Stuttgarter Pegida-Demo am Sonntagnachmittag angemeldet. In etwa 200 dürften es gewesen sein. Die Gegner, darunter die Bundestagsabgeordneten Karin Maag, Stefan Kaufmann und Ute Vogt, waren deutlich in der Überzahl.' The number of counter protesters were than 10 times as much, at 4,000.

And BW is the place where the Republikaner won 10% in Pforzheim not all that long ago. It will be very interesting to see how the AfD does in the federal election.

I am not aware that the Stuttgart 21 folks were supressed in any way by the Greenies nor that there were any counter-protesters, not to speak of violent ones. Anybody threatened to lose his job?

In contrast harassment of the Pegida folks in Dresden was pretty regular. The city organizing a Rock concert right next to them, trying to drown them out. Organizing Counter demonstrations and letting the Pegida run the gauntlet through a small path between hateful agressive counters. Occuping all major places in Winter and send the Pegida to a swamp place at the Elbe. Trying to pin the violence of the counters on them, in order to justify prohibiting them from assembly.

Especially given the near eq

Especially given the near equal votes for the AfD, 15% in Baden Württemberg,

I wondered for a while why things were different in Dresden, and I think it was them reaching a critical mass of up to 25 000 before the propaganda of the main stream media kicked in, and deterred most people taking any look at it.

By then those guys felt enough strength compared to the counters being 10 times less, the exact opposite as in most other places.

American readers may not get the Duracell Rabbit reference. In the US, it is the Energizer Bunny

Every country has a south, even ones that have an east and a west.

Agree to disagree.

Will the Hun ever undestand democracy?

The democratic system in Germany is better than in US, UK, France
enabling both direct and proportional representation

and the people are so far less antagonistic, enabling the presently ruling Grand coalition

Maybe, but behind the façade...

So you are down to just slander

the people are so far less antagonistic, enabling the presently ruling Grand coalition

They do as their told. This is novel?

"In the New Social Market Economy Initiative’s education rankings, Saxony and Thuringia took the two highest places among Germany’s 16 states while Berlin and Brandenburg, also eastern states, took the two lowest."

Is Berlin spilling into Brandenburg?

Berlin and Brandenburg are some of the most left extremist countries in Germany.

Berlin as the Capital, and Brandenburg as the "Speckgürtel" commuter belt around it, should be profit centers, like in other countries, London, Paris, Washington, but they need the highest subsidies provided by the rest of Germany, 5% of GDP, not just some small change, it should be the opposite.

debt, deficit, PISA scores all the same

conservatives good, lefties bad

Washington, a peofit center? OK, then.

You read that wrong

+1 for the stopped clock.

Look squirrel!

The total fertility rate in Germany hasn't been above replacement levels since 1969. It hasn't been above 1.5 since 1973. Oh well. You can treat the place as a hotel: slash rates and fill the empty rooms (one hopes with people who have great life expectancy).

It seems to be a conservatism divide. Religion is either a spurious variable or one of many antecedents.

old as the hills. Lutheran (N) v Catholic (S)

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