District-Level Mortality Convergence in Reunified Germany: Long-Term Trends and Contextual Determinants

Rok Hrzic, Tobias Vogt, Helmut Brand, Fanny Janssen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mortality gap between former East and West Germany decreased rapidly in the decade following the reunification of the country in 1990. However, because no previous study has estimated life expectancy (e0) over time for all German districts, the extent of mortality convergence across districts and its determinants are largely unknown. We used a novel relational Bayesian model to estimate district e0 in Germany during 1997-2016, examined mortality convergence using a novel convergence groups approach, and explored the role of selected district characteristics in the process. Differences in e0 between German districts decreased for both sexes during 1997-2016, mainly driven by rapid mortality improvements in eastern German districts. However, considerable heterogeneity in district-level e0 trajectories within federal states was evident. For example, district clusters in northwestern Germany showed increasing e0 disadvantage, which led to a north-south divergence in mortality. A multinomial regression analysis showed a robust association between the e0 trajectory and the district-level tax base and long-term unemployment but not with hospital density. Thus, an equitable "leveling up" of health seems possible with policies investing in places and the people who inhabit them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-325
Number of pages23
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-02-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography


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