In 2016, the Legacy Study was presented to the public for the first time in a cooperation between DIE ZEIT, infas and the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB). It ties in with the social science life course perspective (Karl Ulrich Mayer) and thematically complements it with the dependent variable “legacy” by focusing the research interest on the inheritance (“legacy”) of material possessions as well as the passing on of personal values, practices or life wisdom. In 2018, the study was conducted again and a new survey is planned for the end of 2022. In terms of content, the question is which personal life experiences, ways of doing things and attitudes people in Germany would like to pass on to subsequent generations. In terms of social structure, the question is to what extent this legacy varies according to age, gender, marital status and social class. Three conceptual challenges have to be solved in the context of questionnaire development:

  • First, the instrument needs to be underpinned by constructs that cut across topics in order to embed the broad range of topics in social theory. The aim here is to find scalable constructs that work at the micro and macro levels.
  • Second, it is necessary to operationalize “The Legacy” as an individual orientation toward the future at the interface between the current life situation and society’s overall vision of the future.
  • Third, the study pursues a challenging methodological goal. Since it is assumed that the desire to pass on or bequeath something has a strong emotional component, it is important to address the respondents at a pre-reflexive emotional level as well. For this purpose, with the help of sensory-specific studies on haptics, rhythm, smell and sight, four methodologically innovative questioning instruments were developed that use sensory stimuli to ask about the personal present and future society.

Based on initial tests with these question instruments, it was expected that the sense-related data would also show social-structural differences. The bequest study provides an innovative contribution to social science life course research, whose perspective is thematically broadened by the question of the socio-psychological and socio-structural determinants of personal bequest ambitions. In addition, the study contributes to social science futures research by examining interactions between objective sociodemographic determinants and subjective conceptions of the future and by projecting the life course to a point in time that has not yet occurred. In this way, it helps to clarify whether attitudes toward the future are influenced by personal dispositions, by life and work biographies, or by institutional conditions, such as German reunification,

The survey

The data basis for the study in 2016 is a Germany-wide representative, personal computer-assisted survey (CAPI) of 3,000 people aged 14 to 75. This survey is accompanied by smaller quantitative and qualitative additional surveys. Between the end of May and the beginning of September 2018, a total of 2,070 people were again interviewed throughout Germany.On average, they were interviewed in person on site for 100 minutes each. 1227 of them had already participated in the first survey in summer 2015. A further 843 randomly selected people were newly added. Together, they form a representative cross-section of the population.


Was die Deutschen bewegt

Artikel der ZEIT zur Vermächtnisstudie