Regional income differences: where rich Germans live

Status: 04/13/2022 08:30

According to a recent study, regional income differences in Germany are still significant. But in which cities do residents earn the most per capita?

In Germany, there is still a large income gap between East and West, but also between South and North. It is the result of a study by the Institute of Economic and Social Sciences (WSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation, affiliated with the trade unions, which is based on the latest available data from the national accounts of the federal states for 2019.

Heilbronn in front, Gelsenkirchen in the background

Of all 401 German administrative districts and urban districts, Heilbronn is the undisputed leader. The average per capita disposable income in the city of Baden-Württemberg on the Neckar is 42,275 euros. The Starnberg district follows in second place with 38,509 euros.

For comparison: in the last positions, Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg, the per capita income was not even half at € 17,015 and € 17,741 respectively. On average, per capita disposable income nationwide was € 23,706.

How researchers arrive at “disposable income”

In the study, disposable income is defined as primary income, which is the sum of income from property and work minus social security contributions, income taxes, wealth taxes, and other direct taxes. Social benefits and other public transfers are added.

In addition, services such as auto insurance or civil liability are added. As a result, researchers receive the disposable income of private households which can be used for consumption or saved. This is then divided by the total population to obtain the per capita income.

How some families affect the statistics

However, the results should be taken with caution. Especially in some smaller cities or rural areas with very high incomes, the average income is skewed upwards by a manageable number of very wealthy households.

Heilbronn’s top position in the income rankings is probably due not least to the owner of a large German discount chain based in the region and its foundations, as the scientists themselves point out.

Lidl boss distorts income statistics

Indeed, Lidl founder Dieter Schwarz lives in Heilbronn. In the current billionaire ranking of the American magazine “Forbes”, the 82-year-old’s fortune is estimated at 47.1 billion dollars (about 43 billion euros). This makes him the richest German.

The head of Lidl is currently investing large sums in his hometown of Heilbronn to make it fit for the future as a place of knowledge and education. The Schwarz Group with Lidl and Kaufland is one of the largest retail groups in Europe.

Strong west-east and north-south divide

Another finding from the WSI study: The west-east income gap has not yet disappeared for more than three decades after reunification. According to this, there is only one district in the new federal states, the Potsdam-Mittelmark district (24,127 euros), where the per capita disposable income exceeds the national average of 23,706 euros.

In the old federal states, meanwhile, there is a large north-south divide. On average, per capita income in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg is around € 2,600 more than in the rest of West Germany, the researchers said.

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