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Educational attainment, Germany

Codes and Frequencies

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EDUCDE indicates the person's educational attainment in Germany in terms of the level of schooling completed.

Comparability — General

The variable is broadly comparable across samples, but there are differences due to the parallel education systems prior to German reunification. The 1970 and 1987 censuses correspond to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), while the 1971 and 1981 censuses correspond to the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The universe differs slightly across samples: age 15 and older in the 1970 and 1971 samples, age 14 and older in the 1981 sample, and age 15 to 65 in the 1987 sample.

Treatment of education levels is broadly consistent across FRG and GDR censuses, with some exceptions. Education is compulsory through age 14 or 15 in both countries. FRG 1970 and GDR 1981 make some distinction between the completion of 8th grade and "some primary school attendance," whereas GDR 1971 and FRG 1987 do not. Given the compulsory nature of education and the high age universe, primary school attendance/ completion is treated as completion for the other two samples for the latter two samples.

All samples identify people who have completed lower secondary (completed 10th grade) and are relatively comparable. In both republics, vocational training and university preparatory education can follow more than one track. Vocational training tracks differ somewhat between the two German republics.

In the case of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), even though administration of the education system was a function of each state, it followed a typical structure. Basic education consisted of a common 4-year primary school (Volksschule) followed by three tracks: a general secondary school (Hauptschule), middle or intermediate school (Realschule), and academic secondary (Gymnasium). The general secondary and middle schools usually led to some form of vocational education (more advanced for the latter) and finished at the 9th or 10th grade, whereas the academic secondary track led to university entrance and included more than 10 grades.

The vocational secondary education options encompassed part-time vocational school (Berufsschule), full-time vocational school (Berufsfachschule), and technical school (Fachschule).

In the case of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), basic education began at age 6 and initially comprised an 8-year elementary and 4-year secondary school system, which was replaced over time by a 10-year compulsory system, called the polytechnic secondary school (Polytechnische Oberschule). After its completion, students could pursue extended secondary school leading to university entrance (Abitur) or they could choose vocational education.

The vocational secondary education options encompassed the semi-skilled worker certificate (Teilfacharbeiter), the skilled worker certificate (Facharbeiter), and the master craftsman certificate (Meister). Some vocational tracks could lead to university entrance.

Fachhochschulen (FRG) and Ingenieurschulen or Fachschulen (GDR) provide post-secondary technical education separate from the formal university system. In both the FRG and GDR, Hochschule refers to university education.


  • Germany 1970: Persons age 15+
  • Germany 1971: Persons age 15+
  • Germany 1981: Persons age 14+
  • Germany 1987: Persons age 15-64


  • Germany: 1970, 1971, 1981, 1987