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 of a given survey household aged 16 and over. Thus, there are no proxy interviews for adult household members. Additionally, one person (the “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 such as social assistance or housing allowances). This questionnaire also includes questions on children up to the age of 16 in the household, mainly concerning daycare, kindergarten, and school attendance.

The questions in the SOEP are largely identical for all participants of the survey to ensure comparability across the participants within a given year, but 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 sample of foreigners (B) and the 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 reunification process, the questionnaire for the East German sample (C) also contained some additional specific variables. From 1996 to 2012, all questionnaires were uniform and completely integrated for all of the main SOEP samples. For the IAB-SOEP Migration Sample, which was launched in 2013, specific questions were added to the SOEP questionnaires. The same is true of the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Survey of Refugees, which was launched in 2016.

Another special questionnaire is used for first-time respondents since some questions do not have to be repeated every year. Each respondent is asked to fill out a biographical 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 respondent can be obtained from the “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 analysis. For researchers interested in methodological issues, these data also contain information on the fieldwork process such as the number of contacts, reasons for drop-outs, and interview mode. For households that were contacted successfully, the address logs cover the size of the household, some regional information, survey status, etc. The individual data for all household members include the relationship to the household head, survey status of the individual, and some demographic information.

Life History

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The SOEP questionnaires are designed so that people in a SOEP household can be analyzed from birth to adulthood and throughout the rest of their lives. In addition to the Youth Questionnaire, which was conducted for the first time in 2000/01, a series of questionnaires for specific cohorts of children living in SOEP households have been introduced since 2003. These have been completed annually 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 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 their 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, answered questions about their own lives for the first time. These were introduced in 2014 and 2016, respectively. In 2018, the first cohort completed the entire battery of age-specific instruments and from then on, they will complete the annual questionnaires of the long-term SOEP study. Each person in a SOEP household receives the Individual Questionnaire as soon as they reach the age of 18, and the head of the household also receives the Household Questionnaire. If a respondent states in their interview that someone has died in the last year, regardless of whether the deceased person was part of a SOEP household, the Deceased Individual Questionnaire is given to the respondent providing the information.

Questionnaires Overview

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Household Questionnaire

The household questionnaire in its basic form has been an important part of the SOEP surveys since 1984 and has been improved and expanded continuously. The data collected and the questionnaire itself have become so complex that the original topics are no longer sufficient. Between 1984 and 2016, the number of questions more than doubled from 46 to 97. The multitude of questions offer users many options for analysis. Each year, the number of questions varies because new innovative question modules are added or because some questions are not asked every year. An overview of the modules included at different intervals can be found in the Chapter Contents of SOEP-Core. The questions provide diverse information about the respondents’ households that is stored in several hundred variables. Child-specific questions asked in the household questionnaire are found 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

  • Building type

  • Size and condition of dwelling

  • Amenities

  • Type of dwelling

  • Loans, mortgages, building-society loans

  • Hereditary lease interest

  • Modernization costs

  • Ownership costs

  • Photovoltaic and solar thermal system

  • Owner debt

  • Government-subsidized housing

  • Home ownership

  • Rental and expenses

  • Tenant debt

  • Cleaning or household assistance

  • Persons in need of care

  • Names and birth dates of children

  • Child’s school attendance

  • Childcare situation

  • Income and expenses from renting/leasing

  • Loan repayment

  • Debt

  • Inheritance, gifts, winnings

  • Investments

  • Income/expenses 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 are added to the individual questionnaire and repeated at intervals of more than one year.

Availability: Since 1984

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

Respondent: Persons over 18 years in the household

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

  • Satisfaction with various live aspects

  • Satisfaction with current life situation

  • Feelings

  • Flourishing

  • Risk aversion

  • Political orientation

  • Worrying

  • Life satisfaction overall

  • Ethnic/national origins

  • Vocational training

  • Completed level of education

  • Higher education

  • Family situation

  • Family changes

  • State of health

  • Disability or severe disability

  • Visits to the doctor

  • Hospital stays

  • Sick leave

  • Health insurance

  • Wages and collective wage agreements

  • Additional questions for employees

  • Additional questions for retirees/pensioners

  • Government transfers

  • Calendar

  • Time use

  • Second jobs

  • Income

  • Work, last 7 days

  • Maternity/ parental leave

  • Care period (Pflegezeit)

  • Registered unemployed

  • Quitting a job

  • Employment status

  • Start of job

  • Change of job

  • Job search

  • Current profession

  • Current job

  • Working hours

  • Overtime

where applicable:

+ migration specific modules for the IAB-SOEP-Migrationsample

  • First Job in Germany

  • Job before immigration

  • Language proficiency before and since immigration

  • Partnership during immigration

  • Living situation since immigration

  • Religion and faith of parents

  • Satisfaction in various areas of life 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

Re-Interviewed

  • 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.

Content:

  • Nationality

  • Country of 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 answer questions dealing primarily with pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the health of the newborn child. The questionnaire also asks to what extent the mother feels that her living situation changed after the birth of the child, how childcare is handled, and how mothers assess their baby’s temperament (as a precursor to personality).

Availability: Since 2003

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

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

Content:

  • Course of pregnancy

  • Childbirth

  • Health screening

  • Well-being

  • Childcare

  • Living situation

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

Mothers of 2-3-year-old children answer questions about their child’s health and how long they have been breastfeeding. The questionnaire asks again about the childcare situation and the child’s temperament and includes a short scale on personality (the dimensions of agreeableness, extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness from the “Big Five”; McCrae and Costa 1987). In addition, it asks what language is spoken with the child and what activities they or the main caregiver engages in with their child (e.g., going to the playground, reading or telling stories, visiting other families with children). Mothers are asked to assess their children’s adaptive behavior in the areas of communication, everyday skills, social relationships, and motor skills. This is based on a translated version of the Vineland Adpative Behavior Scale, which was reduced to 20 items for the SOEP to provide data on the child’s stage of development in everyday life.

Availability: Since 2005

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

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

Content:

  • Personality of the child

  • Well-being

  • Childcare

  • Language skills

  • Development

  • Abilities

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

Mothers of 5-6-year-old children complete this questionnaire in the survey year when their child will turn six. It has many of the same topics as in previous years: health, childcare, a more comprehensive battery of items on the personality (from this age on, the “Big Five” dimension of neuroticism is also included) and activities that they or the main caregiver engages in with their child. In addition, the questionnaire includes a shortened version of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a frequently used instrument to measure the mental health of children and adolescents, reduced here to 17 items of the German SDQ.

Availability: Since 2008

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

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

Content:

  • Personality of the child

  • Activities with children

  • Well-being

  • Childcare

Parents Questionnaire (7-8-year-olds)

This questionnaire on 7-8-year-old children is the only age-specific instrument that is completed by both parents, as long as they live together in the same household. In this age range, questions about school attendance (date of school enrolment) and parent’s aspirations for their children’s level of school completion become relevant for the first time. However, the focus is on parenting goals, parenting styles, and the roles of both parents. Parenting goals range between conformity and autonomy. Parenting styles are surveyed using 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 on the role of parents, which can be divided into three scales: autonomy, hostile attributes, and willingness to make sacrifices.

Availability: Since 2012

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

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

Content:

  • Expectations for school achievements

  • Expectations of parental educational goals

  • Upbringing

  • Parental role

  • Childcare

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

In addition to questions on health and child care, which are asked in almost all age groups, mothers of 9-10-year-old children are asked for more detailed information about the children’s school situation. They are asked what level of schooling they would like their children to complete and what level they think is realistic, what their children’s most recent grades were in their three main subjects, whether someone helps the child with homework, and whether the child likes going to school. Since friends and leisure activities are gaining in importance in this age group, some questions deal with these topics. Questions about allowance money are 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)

Content:

  • 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

Young people complete a questionnaire for the first time themselves in the year they turn twelve. Here, as in the preceding questionnaires, the focus is on their school situation: what time their school day starts and ends on different days of the week, what type of school they attend, how many students are in their class, how many of their classmates are not from Germany, whether they feel discriminated against by their teacher, and what their grades were on their last report card in Math, German, and English. The questionnaire also asks how much time they spend on homework, where they do their homework, and who helps them with homework and studying. They are asked what level of schooling they would like to complete and what level they realistically expect to complete. Since friends play an important role at this age, pre-teens are asked how often they go to friends for support when they have problems. They are asked how many close friendships they have and how often their parents interfere in their choice of friends. They are asked about the educational aspirations of their three closest friends and three older siblings (if any). Several questions deal with their cultural capital and learning environment (e.g., books, musical instruments, and art in the household; whether they have a desk and a room of their own). They are asked about how they spend their free time, how much allowance money they get, and about their personality, willingness to take risks, and life satisfaction. Further questions deal with what languages are spoken with the child and who the child eats meals with.

Availability: Since 2014

Dataset: $school (CS)

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

Content:

  • 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 designed similarly to the pre-teen questionnaire to provide important data on developmental psychology. There are fewer questions about homework and the learning environment and more questions on involvement in extra-curricular activities at school (e.g., student council, after-school clubs) since such activities build social capital. Early youth are asked about the importance of various family members and friends in their lives and about their own educational aspirations as well as those of their three best friends. They are asked how late they are allowed to stay out on school nights and weekends, and what types of activities they have taken part in without their parents (e.g., vacation, doctor visits, shopping, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes). They are asked how much allowance they get, and whether they have any savings. Another new topic in this age group is interest in politics and political orientations.

Availability: Since 2015

Dataset: $school2 (CS)

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

Content:

  • 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, young people who turn 17 in the year of the survey are considered adult respondents. Like other first-time adult respondents, they receive a biography questionnaire and an individual questionnaire. Since part of the adult biography (e.g., employment history, relationships) does not yet apply to the young respondents, whereas other aspects such as relationships with parents, leisure activities, and school or vocational training play a greater role, a youth questionnaire was developed in 2000 to replace the biographical questionnaire in this age group. The content of this questionnaire corresponds in many respects to the adult biographical questionnaire so that the data can be used to supplement the information on parents (if parents do not live in the household; data set: BIOPAREN). Health status, personality, willingness to take risks, locus of control, trust, time preferences, political preferences, knowledge of German, as well as information on the respondent’s living situation, work situation, training, career plans, and educational aspirations are also covered in this questionnaire. For the period from 2000 to 2005, respondents in this age group completed the youth questionnaire and the individual questionnaire. Since 2006, they have only completed the youth questionnaire. The version used since then has been expanded to include a few additional indicators. A test was added to assess cognitive potential based on the I-S-T 2000R (Amthauer et al. 2001) using 20 subtasks each for the components of analogies, number series, and matrices (see Solga et al. 2005). The test measures fluid cognitive abilities, 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 those usually used in surveys, young people’s willingness to participate has been high (Schupp and Hermann 2009).

Availability: Since 2000

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

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

Content:

  • 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

Cognitive Tests for Youth

In 2006, a separate questionnaire with cognitive tests for adolescents was used for the first time in the SOEP. It was named “Lust auf DJ” (or “interest in DJ”) as a play on disc jockey, but DJ stands for “Denksport und Jugend”, or mind sports and youth. The questionnaire was created for young people between the ages of 16 and 17.

Availability: Since 2007

Dataset: cogdj (CS)

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

Content:

  • Assignment of word pairs

  • Complete 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.

Content:

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

In 2009, for the first time in SOEP-Core, information was collected on former SOEP participants who had died since the last survey in 2008. The Deceased Individual questionnaire thus completes the life history information in the SOEP. The primary aim is to obtain as much information as possible about the causes and circumstances of death of former SOEP respondents. As the questionnaire also collects information on individuals who have never participated in the SOEP survey, this can be used together with the causes and circumstances of death in socio-scientific analysis.

Availability: Since 2009

Dataset: vp (CS), vpl (long)

Respondent: SOEP respondents who lost a loved one.

Content:

  • Relationship to the deceased

  • Was the deceased a survey respondent?

  • Domestic environment of the deceased

  • Cause and place of death

  • Last will and testament

  • Health of the deceased

  • Life satisfaction of the deceased

  • Influence of bereavement on respondent’s own life

Grip Strength Test

Availability: Since 2008

Dataset: gripstr (long)

Respondent: Persons over 17 years in the household

Content:

This test measures hand grip strength, which is useful in assessing respondents’ physical condition.