SOEP Questionnaires

The interview methodology of the SOEP is based on a set of pre-tested questionnaires for households and individuals. Interviewers try to obtain face-to-face interviews with all members aged 16 years and over of a given survey household. Thus, there are no proxy interviews for adult household members. Additionally, one person (the so called “head of household”) is asked to answer a household related questionnaire covering information on housing, housing costs, and different sources of income (e.g. social transfers like social assistance or housing allowances). This questionnaire also covers some questions on children in the household up to the age of 16, mainly concerning their attendance in day care, kindergarten and school.

The questions in the SOEP are in principle identical for all participants of the survey to ensure comparability across the participants within any given year, of course there are differences across years. There are a few exceptions to this rule, which are due to different requirements in the target population. Up to 1996 the questionnaires for the foreigner’s sample (B) and immigrant sample (D) covered additional measures of integration or information on re-migration behavior. Between 1990 and 1992, i.e. during the first years of the German unification process, the questionnaire for the East German sample (C) also contained some additional specific variables. From 1996 until 2012, all questionnaires were uniform and completely integrated for all main SOEP samples. Since 2013, the IAB-SOEP migration sample has existed in the SOEP and therefore specific questions in the SOEP questionnaires are asked. This also applies to the IAB-BAMF-SOEP sample for refugees introduced in 2016.

Another type of questionnaire is implemented because first time respondents are not treated identically to those with a repeated interview, since some information does not have to be asked every year unless a change occurred. Each respondent is asked to fill out a biography questionnaire covering information on the life course up to the first SOEP interview (e.g. marital history, social background, and employment biography).

Additional information - not provided directly by the respondents - can be obtained from the so-called “address logs”, which are stored for every year in the $PBRUTTO and $HBRUTTO files. Every address log is filled in by the interviewer even in the case of non-response, thus providing very valuable information, e.g. for attrition analyses. For researchers interested in methodological issues these data also contain information on the field work process, e.g. the number of contacts, reason for eventual drop-outs, or the interview mode. For successfully contacted households, the address logs cover the size of the household, some regional information, survey status etc., while the individual data for all household members include the relation to the household head, survey status of the individual and some demographic information.

Life History


The SOEP questionnaires are designed in such a way that people in a SOEP household can be analyzed from birth to adulthood. In addition to the Youth Questionnaire, which was conducted for the first time in 2000/01, a series of questionnaires for certain cohorts of children living in SOEP households has been introduced since 2003. These are filled in every year since their year of introduction by mothers (in exceptional cases by fathers) with children of the appropriate age. In 2003 a questionnaire was developed for the mothers of newborn children (0-1 years) Mother-Child-Questionnaire (Newborns). The following instruments were developed in such a way that this starting cohort (born 2002/ 2003) can be followed up in its development and analyzed longitudinally. This was followed in 2005 by a questionnaire for mothers of 2-3-year-old children Mother-Child Questionnaire (2-3-year-olds) and in 2008 by a questionnaire for 5-6-year-olds Mother-Child Questionnaire (5-6-year-olds). In 2010, the questionnaire for 7-8-year-old children Parents Questionnaire (7-8-year-olds), completed by both mothers and fathers, was launched. In 2012, the questionnaire for 9-10-year-old children Mother-Child Questionnaire (9-10-year-olds) was the last questionnaire to be answered by the mothers. This was followed by two youth instruments in which the children, aged 12 Pre-Teen Questionnaire and 14 Early Youth Questionnaire respectively, answered questions about their own life situation for the first time. These were introduced in 2014 and 2016 respectively, so that in 2018 the first cohort went through the complete battery of age-specific instruments for the first time and then, as an adult, will answer annually thematically changing topics of the long-term SOEP study. As soon as the age of 18 is reached, each person in a SOEP household receives the Individual Questionnaire, the head of the household additionally receives the Household Questionnaire. As soon as a person dies, regardless of whether this person is part of a SOEP household, the Deceased Individual Questionnaire is handed over to the person providing the information.

Questionnaires Overview


Household Questionnaire

The household questionnaire in its basic form has been an important part of the SOEP surveys since 1984 and has always been improved and expanded. The data collected and the questionnaire itself have reached such a complexity that basic topics are not enough to cover the entire spectrum of information. For example, in 1984 there were 46 questions and in 2016 the number of questions more than doubled to 97. The multitude of questions offers users many analysis options. Each year the number of questions varies because new innovative question modules are added or questions that are not asked every year are added to the questionnaire after a break of two or five years. An overview of the respective and annually question modules can be found in the Chapter Contents of SOEP-Core. With the help of all these questions, various information about the respondents’ households is stored in several hundred variables. Children specific questions asked in the household questionnaire are prepared in the separate data set $kind.

Availability: Since 1984

Dataset: $h (CS), hl (long)

Respondent: Head of household

The following question modules are part of the core program of the Household Questionnaire:

  • Change of living situation
  • Neighborhood
  • House type
  • Size and condition of the house
  • Apartment equipment
  • Apartment status
  • Loans, mortgages, building-society loans
  • Hereditary lease interest
  • Modernization costs
  • Owner costs
  • Photovoltaic and solar thermal system
  • Owner burden
  • Social housing/leased flat at a reduced rate
  • Apartment owner
  • Rental and ancillary costs
  • Tenant burden
  • Cleaning or household assistance
  • Persons in need of care
  • Name and birth of children
  • School attendance for child
  • Caring Situation for child
  • Income and expenses from rental/lease
  • Repayments for loans
  • Credit burden
  • Inheritance, present, lottery prize
  • Investments
  • Income/expanses household
  • Savings

where applicable:

+ migration specific modules for the IAB-SOEP-Migrationsample

  • distinction of repayments for loans, credit burden and income/expanses between inland and foreign countries

or where applicable:

+ refugee specific modules for the IAB-BAMF-SOEP-Sample of Refugees

  • Information to shared accomodations
  • Location preferences

Individual Questionnaire

The individual questionnaire has been a standard instrument since the beginning of the SOEP. In order to enable analyses over time, the individual questionnaire therefore has a large number of question modules which are asked every year. There are also questions that do not have to be asked every year as short-term changes are unlikely. In order to be able to react to current social changes, new topics on the individual questionnaire are added, which are not surveyed annually and are therefore not part of the standard questions of the individual questionnaire.

Availability: Since 1984

Dataset: $p (CS), pl (long)

Respondent: All individuals over 18 years in the household

The following question modules are part of the core program of the Individual Questionnaire:

  • Satisfaction with various aspects
  • Mood
  • Flourishing
  • Risk Aversion
  • Political orientation
  • Worries
  • Life satisfaction
  • Origin
  • Apprenticeship
  • Acquired qualification
  • Advanced training
  • Family situation
  • Family changes
  • State of health
  • Disability or severe disability
  • Visits to the doctor
  • Hospital stays
  • Sickness notifications to employer
  • Health insurance
  • Employment earnings and collective wage agreements
  • Additional questions for employees
  • Additional questions for retirees/pensioners
  • Transfer payments
  • Calendar
  • Use of time
  • Secondary occupations
  • Income
  • Work, last 7 days
  • Maternity/ Parental leave
  • Care period (Pflegezeit)
  • Registered unemployed
  • Quitting a profession
  • Employment status
  • Start of the job
  • Change of job
  • Job search
  • Practiced profession
  • Current employment
  • Working hours
  • Overtime

where applicable:

+ migration specific modules for the IAB-SOEP-Migrationsample

  • First Job in Germany
  • Job before immigration
  • Language Skills before and after immigration
  • Partnership during immigration
  • Living situation after immigration
  • Religion and faith of parents
  • Satisfaction in various areas before and after immigration

or where applicable:

+ refugee specific modules for the IAB-BAMF-SOEP-Sample of Refugees

  • Legal status
  • Religion and faith
  • Language proficiency
  • Integration courses and government measures
  • Special questions for interviewers concerning language
  • Recognition of qualifications


  • Cultural and political participation
  • Application for recognition
  • Trauma screener
  • OK (Judgement of different actions)
  • Citizenship (inkl. connection with country of origin/ Germany)
  • Disadvantages
  • Location preferences
  • Willingness to participate in a tandem program
  • Satisfaction in various areas before and after fleeing

New respondents

  • Obtaining help and knowledge about advice services
  • Assessment of current situation in country of origin
  • Government, democracy and woman’s position

Biography Questionnaire

Availability: Since 1987

Dataset: $lela (CS), biol (long)

Respondent: Supplementary, one-time data on the personal questionnaire of all persons aged 18 and over in the HH.


  • Nationality
  • Origin
  • Childhood
  • Parents
  • Life course since the age of 15
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Partnership/ Marriage
  • Information on children
  • Siblings

where applicable:

+ migration specific modules for the IAB-SOEP-Migrationsample

  • Your way to Germany
  • Stays Abroad
  • Citizenship
  • Language proficiency
  • Work before moving to Germany
  • First job in Germany
  • Relationship at the time of moving to Germany

or where applicable:

+ refugee specific modules for the IAB-BAMF-SOEP-Sample of Refugees

  • Your way to Germany
  • Questions concerning parents of respondent
  • Lodging and living situation
  • Language proficiency before moving to Germany

Mother-Child Instruments

Mother-Child-Questionnaire (Newborns)

Mothers of newborn children primarily answer questions about the course of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the health of the newborn child. It also asks to what extent the mother feels that her life circumstances have changed after the birth of the child, how the care of the child is regulated and how the temperament of the baby (as a precursor of the personality) is perceived by mothers.

Availability: Since 2003

Dataset: $muki (CS), bioagel (long)

Respondent: Mother in household (child age 0-1)


  • Course of pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Health screening
  • Well-being
  • Childcare
  • Life circumstances

Mother-Child Questionnaire (2-3-year-olds)

Mothers of 2-3-year-old children also answer some questions about their child’s health and how long they have been breastfeeding. In addition, the child’s care situation is asked, again the temperament as well as a short scale for recording the personality (agreeableness, extraversion, openness and conscientiousness of the Big Five; McCrae and Costa 1987). In addition, the use of language in the family and activities carried out with the children (e.g. going to the playground, reading or telling stories, visiting other families with children) are recorded. Mothers also assess their children’s adaptive behaviour in the dimensions of communication, everyday skills, social relationships and motor skills. The acquisition is based on a translated version of the Vineland Adpative Behavior Scale, which was reduced to 20 items for the SOEP. This scale thus investigates the stage of development of the infant in everyday life.

Availability: Since 2005

Dataset: $muki2 (CS), bioagel (long)

Respondent: Mother in household (child age 2-3)


  • Personality of the child
  • Well-being
  • Childcare
  • Language skills
  • Development
  • Abilities

Mother-Child Questionnaire (5-6-year-olds)

The subsequent age-specific survey is carried out as soon as the children turn six years old in the survey year. Among the topics it resembles the surveys conducted in previous years: health, care situation, a more comprehensive battery of items on the personality (from this age neuroticisum is also collected) and activities that are carried out with the child. In addition, there is the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), which is a shortened version of the German version of the SDQ to 17 items and is a very frequently used instrument for the mental health of children and young people.

Availability: Since 2008

Dataset: $muki3 (CS), bioagel (long)

Respondent: Mother in household (child age 5-6)


  • Personality of the child
  • Activities with children
  • Well-being
  • Childcare

Parents Questionnaire (7-8-year-olds)

The questionnaire, which was developed for 7-8-year-old children, is the only age-specific instrument to be completed by both parents, as long as they live together in the same household. In this age range, questions about school attendance (time of school enrolment) and idealistic and realistic educational aspirations become relevant for the first time. However, the focus of this instrument is on the educational goals, parenting styles and the role of both parents. The educational objectives can be differentiated between conformity and autonomy. Educational styles are asked by answering 18 items, which can be divided into six scales: Emotional warmth, inconsistent education, monitoring, negative communication, psychological control, strict control. The items were taken from the pairfam study, as were the 10 items for recording the role of parents. The parental role can be divided into three scales (autonomy, hostile attributes, willingness to make sacrifices).

Availability: Since 2012

Dataset: $elt (CS), bioagel (long)

Respondent: Parents in household (child age 7-8)


  • Expectations for school achievements
  • Expectations of parental educational goals
  • Upbringing
  • Parental role
  • Childcare

Mother-Child Questionnaire (9-10-year-olds)

In addition to the items on health and the care situation recorded in almost all age groups, 9-10-year-old children are asked for more detailed information on the school situation. Here, too, the idealistic and realistic educational aspirations of the mothers for their child are recorded, but also the last grades of the three main subjects, as well as the child’s homework supervision and school motivation. Since friends and leisure activities are gaining in importance in this age group, questions are also asked on these topics. Whether and how much pocket money the child receives will be asked for the first time in this age group.

Availability: Since 2012

Dataset: $muki5 (CS), bioagel (long)

Respondent: Mother in household (child age 9-10)


  • Expectations (school achievements, parental educational goals)
  • Education
  • parental commitment
  • Leisure activities for children
  • Family environment
  • Social behavior child
  • Personality Child
  • Health Child
  • Supervision
  • Pocket money

Youth Instruments

Pre-Teen Questionnaire

In the year in which the children turn twelve, they answer questions about their situation for the first time. Here the focus is once again on the school situation: the start and end of school are asked differentiated according to the days of the week, the type of school attended, the number of pupils in the class and how many of them do not come from Germany, whether one feels discriminated against by the teacher and the last grades in math, German and English. It also determines how much time the student spends on homework, where he or she does the homework and who helps him or her with the homework and learning. The children are asked about their idealistic and realistic graduation aspiration. Since friends play an important role as caregivers at this age, they and various family members are asked what role they play in the support and how often there are disputes. Also asked about the number of close friendships and how often the parents interfere in the choice of friends. The educational aspirations of the three best friends and a maximum of three older siblings (if any) are asked. The cultural capital and learning environment of the pupils are assessed on the basis of various questions (e.g. availability of literature, instruments, art at home; a desk and a room for oneself). Furthermore, the type and frequency of leisure activities is again asked. The student answers whether and how much pocket money he or she receives and for the first time gives information about his or her own personality, willingness to take risks and life satisfaction. The use of the language in the family (only German or other languages) and with whom the meals are usually taken is also asked.

Availability: Since 2014

Dataset: $school (CS)

Respondent: 11-12-year-olds in the household


  • Attitude
  • Personality
  • School (timetable, school-leaving qualification, Engagement)
  • Recreational activities
  • Social and family surroundings
  • Life circumstances

Early Youth Questionnaire

The questionnaire for early youth is largely similar to the questionnaire for pupils in order to provide an appropriate data structure for questions relevant to developmental psychology. Fewer questions are asked about homework and the learning environment, but the question is asked whether the young person is involved in the school (e.g. as class spokesperson or in a working group) and social capital is acquired in this way. The current importance of various family members and friends is asked and, in addition to their own educational aspirations, also that of the three best friends. With regard to parents, the question is asked how long the young person is allowed to travel and stay up alone before school days and what things the 14-year-old has already done without parents (e.g. holidays, going to the doctor, exchanging something in the shop, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes). They ask again for the pocket money and also whether the young person has the opportunity to save money. Another new topic in this age group is the interest in politics and the inclination towards a certain party.

Availability: Since 2015

Dataset: $school2 (CS)

Respondent: 13-14-year-olds in the household


  • self-perception
  • School (timetable, school-leaving qualification, Engagement)
  • Recreational activities
  • Friends
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Pocket money
  • Party preferences
  • Self-Perception
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Life satisfaction
  • Attitudes/Opinions
  • Future

Youth Questionnaire

In the SOEP, people who turn 17 in the corresponding survey year are considered adult respondents. Like other first-time adult participants, you will thus receive a CV and a individual questionnaire. Since part of the adult biography (such as the employment biography or the relationship biography) does not yet apply to the young participants and other aspects such as the relationship with parents, leisure activities, the school situation or vocational training play a greater role, a youth questionnaire was developed in 2000 which replaces the CV questionnaire in this age group and has been used since then. The content of this questionnaire corresponds in many respects to the adult CV questionnaire, so that the data can be used to supplement the information on parents (if they do not live in the household; data set: BIOPAREN). Health status, personality, willingness to take risks, locus of control, trust, time preference, political preferences, knowledge of German as well as information on the living situation, work situation, training, career plans and educational aspirations are also surveyed. For the period from 2000 to 2005, the youth questionnaire was surveyed in addition to the personal questionnaire. Since 2006, only the youth questionnaire has been recorded for 17-year-olds. Since then, it has been available in a version extended by a few indicators, and instead a test has been used to assess cognitive potential. Based on the I-S-T 2000R (Amthauer et al. 2001) the components analogies, number series and matrices with 20 subtasks each were selected for the SOEP (cf. Solga et al. 2005). With the help of these tasks, the fluid cognitive abilities are to be recorded. This is a strongly biologically determined dimension of cognitive abilities that is not influenced by education and is primarily based on reasoning, processing rate and working memory capacity (Cattell 1971; Horn 1982). Although the format of the test differs from the usual questionnaires in surveys, the willingness of young people to participate is high (Schupp and Hermann 2009).

Availability: Since 2000

Dataset: $jugend (CS), jugendl (long)

Respondent: 16-17-year-olds in the household


  • Living
  • Relationships
  • Leisure and Sport
  • School (Graduation, Foreign languages, Engagement)
  • Pocket money
  • Education
  • Career Plans
  • Future
  • Origin
  • Childhood and Parental Home
  • Attitudes/Opinions
  • Self-Perception
  • Life satisfaction
  • Party preferences

„Lust auf DJ“ (Denksport und Jugend) Questionnaire

In SOEP 2006, a separate questionnaire with cognitive tests for adolescents was used for the first time: “Lust auf DJ”. In this case, “DJ” stands for “Thinking Sports and Youth (Denksport und Jugend)”, but was also specifically selected to arouse the more common association of “Disc Jockey”. For all interviewees aged 16 - 17 years, the questionnaire “Lust auf DJ” was used and created.

Availability: Since 2007

Dataset: cogdj (CS)

Respondent: 16-17-year-olds in the household as a supplement to the youth questionnaire


  • Assignment of word pairs
  • Complete incomplete equations
  • Assign figures

Additional Instruments

Catch-Up Individual Questionnaire

The Catch-Up questionnaire relates to temporary drop outs for which significant missing data from the previous year are collected.

Availability: Since 1987

Dataset: pluecke (CS), plueckel (long)

Respondent: SOEP respondents who are temporarily unavailable.


All data refer to the previous survey year

  • Status of the respondent
  • Occupational change
  • Receipt of social benefits within the last year
  • Completion of education
  • Type of educational attainment
  • Change of family status

Deceased Individual Questionnaire

For the first time in the main wave of 2009, information should be collected on former SOEP participants who have died since the survey in 2008 or until the time of the survey in 2009. Through the questionnaire “The deceased person”, the SOEP curriculum vitae principle is thus consistently “completed”. The primary aim of the chosen concept is to obtain as much information as possible about the death circumstances of former SOEP participants. However, it also generates information about people who have never participated in the SOEP survey. The information collected in this way about otherwise “unknown” persons, however, can also be used for various analysis purposes on causes of death and the context of death can also be used in the socio-scientific analysis.

Availability: Since 2009

Dataset: vp (CS), vpl (long)

Respondent: SOEP respondents who lost a loved one.


  • Relationship to the deceased
  • Deceased part of the survey?
  • Domestic environment of the deceased person
  • Cause and place of death
  • Legacies
  • Health condition of the deceased
  • Life satisfaction of the deceased
  • Influence of loss on one’s own life

Grip Strength Test

Availability: Since 2008

Dataset: gripstr (long)

Respondent: Persons over 17 years in the household


This test measures the strength a person can exert when gripping. This can be important for assessing the physical condition.