1.4.2008 | Von:
Andreas Damelang
Max Steinhardt

The demographic situation in the cities

Population structures and economic conditions in the six biggest German cities vary greatly. The Table illustrates the marked differences in the size of population between the cities.
Schüler stellen am 12.06.2013 in der Ernst-Schering-Schule in Berlin Prominenten Fragen bei einer Veranstaltung im Rahmen der Aktion "Gewalt verhindern - Integration fördern". Bei der Aktion sollen Jugendliche in den Schulen sich aktiv gegen Gewalt und für mehr Toleranz einsetzen.Students at a school in Berlin. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Demographic Indicators
PopulationShare of foreignersIncoming foreignersOutgoing foreignersNet migrationShare of foreigners in the population aged 30 and less
in thou.in %in thou.in thou.in thou.in %
Source: Federal Statistical Office

The largest city, Berlin, has more than five times as many inhabitants as Stuttgart and almost twice as many as the second biggest city, Hamburg. With regard to the proportion of foreigners [1] in the population there are also major differences. In this sense Stuttgart and Munich, each with a foreign population of almost 25%, are well in the lead. Surprisingly, the two largest cities in terms of population, Hamburg and Berlin, have a relatively low percentage of foreigners. Among other reasons, this can be explained by the different role played by both cities during the time of the influx of Gastarbeiter (guest workers). For example,in contrast to Hamburg and Berlin, Stuttgart during the 1950s recorded a strong inflow of workers from southern European countries needed for the prospering, labour-intensive industrial goods and automobile production sectors. One consequence of this was that the percentage of foreigners in the Stuttgart region in the 1960s was already about 11% and therefore significantly higher than the Federal average (cf. Plahuta 2007).

If we consider what is currently happening in terms of immigration, there appears to have been a reversal of trends in recent years with regard to the distribution of immigration streams. Of all the cities between the years 2000 and 2005, Berlin exhibits the highest net immigration figures from abroad both in absolute terms and in relation to the population. Whereas the balance of foreigners migrating to or out of Cologne and Frankfurt is slightly negative or zero, more foreigners migrated to Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart than returned abroad. From the point of view of integration policy, it is particularly interesting to observe the number of people moving in an inward direction, as, generally speaking, new immigrants arrive in Germany with inadequate knowledge of the language and country and are in greater need of integration. At this point the picture changes, for, while it is true that in absolute terms Berlin boasts the greatest number of immigrants, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Munich have the highest influxes of immigrants in proportion to the size of population.

Data shows, moreover, that foreigners in all cities are disproportionately strongly represented in the under 30s age group. This can be explained, among other reasons, by the fact that individual mobility and the inclination to move from one country to another is strongest in a person's earlier years than later on. In the case of Germany there is the added factor that foreign women have more children on average than German women (cf. Statistisches Bundesamt 2006), although certainly the introduction of the new Law on Citizenship in the year 2000 led to an increasing proportion of children of foreign parents receiving German citizenship, and these children are therefore no longer registered as foreigners (cf. Steinhardt 2007b). However, with regard to the age structure of the foreign population, regional differences are also apparent. Thus Munich has the highest proportion of foreigners in the youngest age group (under 30 years), but in relation to the size of its total foreign population, Frankfurt has the most foreigners under 30.


Since both Federal Statistical Office statistics and the IAB Employment Sample only permit differentiation between Germans and foreigners, defined as persons with foreign citizenship, these terms are retained in the present policy brief. The term immigrant, on the other hand, implies personal experience of migration that cannot be identified by means of an individual's citizenship.



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