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Series: MZ


The Microcensus (MC) is an annual sample survey that yields representative official statistics on the population and the labour market in Germany. With a sampling fraction of 1% of the population, it is the largest household survey in Europe. The Microcensus has been conducted in West Germany since 1957 and in the new federal states (Bundesländer) since 1991. The population of the Microcensus comprises all persons in Germany who have the right of residence. The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is integrated into the Microcensus.

The survey programme of the Microcensus consists of a core programme that remains the same in each round. It furnishes basic socio-demographic data and facilitates the ongoing monitoring of the labour market. In addition to the variables in the core programme, which are collected annually, further information on topics such as education and training, current and previous job, and labour market participation is collected within the framework of supplementary programmes with varying sampling fractions. Since the 2005 Microcensus, the additional programmes have been implemented using the full one percent sample. Moreover, since 2005 the Microcensus includes ad hoc modules implemented within the framework of the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) with a sampling fraction of 0.1 %.


Geographical Coverage



Due to the federal organization of the German statistical system, the federal statistical office cooperates with the statistical offices of the Länder. The planning and preparation of the Microcensus is carried out by the Federal Statistical Office. The statistical offices of the Länder are responsible for conducting surveys and preparing the data.


All persons in Germany who have right of residence, living in private households or collective households, at their main and secondary residence. (The survey population does not include members of foreign armed forces or the diplomatic corps and their families. Because the Microcensus uses an area sampling design, homeless persons have no chance of inclusion in the survey.)


Sampling method:

single-stage stratified cluster sampling (since 1972)

Sampling fraction:

1 percent
Ad hoc modules (since 2005) 0.1 percent; EU labour force survey structural variables 2005-2011: 0.1 percent, from 2012 onwards: 1 percent

Sampling frame:

Up to 2015 the master sample for the old federal states was based on results of the 1987 Census of Population and for the new federal states and East Berlin on results from the "Bevölkerungsregister Statistik 1990" (statistics derived from the central population register) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). From 2016 onwards the 2011 Census serves as selection basis for the Microcensus. The master sample is updated annually by taking new construction activities into account. Since 1990, updating has been carried out by drawing a new-construction sample from building activity statistics. In the 1972–1989 rounds of the Microcensus, the supplementary sample was realised either on the basis of interviewers' reports of new construction activity in the sampled municipalities or on the basis of zoning maps.

Primary sampling units:

The sampling districts (primary sampling units) are artificially delimited areas (clusters) comprising, as a rule, neighbouring buildings; in the case of larger buildings, only the building, or a subdivision thereof, is included. Up to the 1989 Microcensus, a sampling district comprised, on average, 23 dwellings. To enhance regionalisability, the average size of the sampling districts was reduced in 1990. Since then, the average sampling district comprises 9 dwellings. The target size for sampling districts in the collective-household building stratum is 15 persons. All households (household members) resident in the sampled districts are interviewed.

Partial rotation:

Since 1977, each sampling district remains in the sample for four years. Each year, a quarter of the sampling districts are replaced by newly introduced sampling districts. [1974-1977: Rotation halves remained in the sample for two years; each year half of the sampling districts were replaced.] Households and persons who move away from the sampling district are not followed but rather replaced by households and persons moving into the sampling district. The Microcensus is therefore a repeat survey with partial overlapping of sampling units. The rotation quarter to which a respondent belongs is not identifiable in the basic and regional Scientific Use Files (SUFs). Since 1996, it has been legally possible to aggregate the cross-sectional data to form a panel data set. Two panel data sets are available as SUFs for panel analyses: 1996-1999 and 2001-2004. A new procedure for the subsample and time-consistent identifiers allows researchers to independently create panel files from the Scientific Use File 2012 onwards (see also: Microcensus Scientific Use Files from 2012 onward as a Rotational Panel). As a qualification, it needs to be mentioned that a new sample was drawn from 2016 onwards, so that panel files can be created only from 2012 up to 2015. Furthermore, panel files from 2016 onwards are limited to the period up to 2019, as the Microcencus and other household statistics will be converted to a fundamentally new system from 2020 onward.

Data Collection

As a rule, the survey data are collected via personal interviews (either paper-and-pencil interviewing (PAPI) with the help of a paper-based questionnaire or – since the 1990s – computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) using a laptop). CAPI has been universally used since the 2005 Microcensus. Some respondents (ca. 20%) complete a self-administered questionnaire. Sampled households and their members are obliged by law to provide information for the Microcensus. However, response to some items is voluntary. The Microcensus is a household survey. In other words, all members of the household are interviewed in person, or one adult member responds on behalf of the other household members, including all minors (proxy interview). The Microcensus also covers foreign households. The questionnaire employed is the same as that used to interview German households. The interviewers forward the data to the statistical offices of the federal states. Households who opt to complete a self-administered questionnaire send it to the statistical office of the federal state in which they are resident. Households that cannot be reached by the interviewers are contacted in writing by the statistical offices of the federal states and sent a self-administered questionnaire. The data are processed by the statistical offices of the federal states and aggregated into a single data set by the Federal Statistical Office.

Survey programmes:

1962-1972 [.pdf]

1973-1985 [.pdf]

1985-1995 [.pdf]

1996-2004 [.pdf]

2005-2016 [.pdf]

Ad-hoc-Modules since 2005:

  • 2005 Reconciliation between work and family life
  • 2006 Transition from work into retirement
  • 2007 Work related accidents, health problems and hazardous exposure
  • 2008 Labour market situation of migrants
  • 2009 Entry of young people into the labour market
  • 2010 Reconciliation between work and family life
  • 2011 Employment of disabled people
  • 2012 Transition from work into retirement
  • 2013 Accidents at work and other work-related health problems
  • 2014 Labour market situation of migrants and their immediate  descendants
  • 2015 Work organisation and working time arrangements
  • 2016 Young people on the labour market


Guidelines for the Factual Anonymization of Particular Statistical Microcensus Information (From the appendix to the standard contract of the Federal Statistical Office regarding the dissemination of Microcensus data)

  1. In accordance with the Microcensus Act, direct identifiers, such as personal identification numbers, names, addresses, telephone numbers, or any other official numbers that permit identification of persons from the data may not be distributed. Therefore, they may not be contained in the data file.
  2. The dataset must be transmitted in an unsystematic order.
  3. Only a randomly generated 70% subsample may be distributed.
  4. The only direct regional data to be given are those of the respective German state.
  5. In the "community size" category, no individual community with a population of less than 500,000 may be identifiable. If there are multiple communities in the same category, they must together comprise at least 400,000 inhabitants in every German state.
  6. The citizenship or nationality of groups in the Federal Republic of Germany with less than approximately 50,000 persons are not to be identifiable.
  7. In its univariate distribution within the statistical population, each category trait must include an aggregate of at least 5,000 cases. If this precondition is not met, then a statistically appropriate simplification or aggregation is needed in order to reach the required number of cases.

Item 3: The Microcensus Scientific Use File (SUF) is a de-facto anonymised 70 percent subsample of the households in the Microcensus. Until 2011, households or dwellings were primary sampling units of the Microcensus, with all persons of a selected household or dwelling being included in the sub-sample. Dwellings were drawn in the survey years in which the 4-year supplementary programme on housing (1998, ..., 2010) was carried out. The basis for the systematic random selection is the original data of the Federal Statistical Office. From 2012, the primary sampling units for the sub-sample are the sampling districts within a rotational quarter.

Legal Basis

Surveys for official statistics are regulated by the Federal Statistics Law. Since the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany, several federal statistics laws have been enacted: the StatGes 1953, the BStatG 1980, as well as the currently valid BStatG 1987. The Federal Statistics Law of 1987 also regulates data circulation for scientific purposes, i.e. the law contains the legal principles which allow data circulation for scientific purposes in the form of a Scientific Use File.


Microcensus Law

For the implementation of specific federal statistics, an additional specific legal principle is needed. The legal basis of the Microcensus is the Microcensus Law. For the Microcensuses between 1996 and 2004, this was the Microcensus Law of 1996. Since the end of January 2005 it has been replaced by the Microcensus Law of 2005. See Lüttinger/Riede, 1997 [.pdf] and Emmerling/Riede 1997 [.pdf].(in German).





Extrapolation in the Microcensus follows a two-stage procedure. The first stage – correction, or compensation, for non-response – entails extrapolating from the net sample of successfully surveyed households to the gross sample of all households on the basis of the design weight. In the second stage – adjustment – the weighted sample is adjusted to conform to benchmark figures from the intercensal population estimates (laufende Bevölkerungsfortschreibung). Depending on the methods used, the two-stage procedure yields different extrapolation factors for the individual survey years.

Data Access

Access Conditions

Microcensus Scientific Use Files can be ordered for a commitment fee from the Research Data Centres of the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the federal states. Since 1st of January 2011, the commitment fee is 250 euros per file and survey year. The researchers who are authorized to access and use the data must be obligated to maintain confidentiality. This special obligation usually applies to civil servants (university); otherwise, it has to be carried out by the Federal Statistical Office. Furthermore, the institution/researcher that receives the data has to establish technical and organizational data security measures.

It must be stated that due to legal reasons (according to § 16, Abs. 6 - 8 BStatG), the anonymized individual data cannot be circulated to institutions beyond the Federal Republic of Germany. Microcensus guidelines restrict the place of data usage to Germany. However, foreign researchers, under approved, special circumstances, have the opportunity to work with the data at the Federal Statistical Office and the statistical offices of the Länder.

For further information see: http://www.forschungsdatenzentrum.de/datenzugang.asp

Access Form

Application form [in German]

Access Contact

Forschungsdatenzentrum der Statistischen Ämter der Länder
- Geschäftsstelle -
c/o Information und Technik Nordrhein-Westfalen
Postfach 10 11 05
40002 Düsseldorf

Forschungsdatenzentrum des Statistischen Bundesamtes
- Forschungsdatenzentrum -
Gustav-Stresemann-Ring 11
65180 Wiesbaden

Data Service

German Microdata Lab (GML), GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Person to contact: Tobias Roth (tobias.roth@gesis.org)


Comparability over Time

In 2005 the mode of data collection was changed and data was no longer collected during a set timeframe but for the entire year. Due to this change results from 2005 onward are only partially comparable to prior studies. In order to improve the implementation of the ILO Labour-Force-Concept since 2005 the questions on labor force participation as well as the field work were adapted. Comparisons over time thus might be influenced by changes in methodology (For more information consult: Statistisches Bundesamt, 2012: Methodeninformation. Mikrozensus und Arbeitskräfteerhebung: Ergebnisse zur Erwerbstätigkeit ab dem Jahr 2011. Wiesbaden [.pdf] (in German)). Since a new sample was drawn for the 2016 Microcensus, comparability with previous years is limited.

The unequal distribution of interviews over the reporting period leads to systematic errors. Further information can be found on the pages for the respective Microcensus study as well as in the Microcensus quality reports.

Comparability between Countries

The integrated EU-Labour Force survey allows for comparisons with other EU member states. The microcensus data allows for comparisons at the level of Bundesländer as well as more fine grained regional units.


Statistisches Bundesamt: Qualitätsberichte zum Mikrozensus (ab 2005)

Statistisches Bundesamt (2016): Erläuterungen zum Mikrozensus.

Statistisches Bundesamt: Fachserien zum Mikrozensus:

  • Haushalte und Familien, Fachserie 1 Reihe 3 (online ab Mikrozensus 2002)
  • Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund, Fachserie 1 Reihe 2.2 (online ab 2005)
  • Stand und Entwicklung der Erwerbstätigkeit in Deutschland, Fachserie 1 Reihe 4.1.1 (online ab 2003)
  • Beruf, Ausbildung und Arbeitsbedingungen der Erwerbstätigen in Deutschland, Fachserie 1 Reihe 4.1.2 (online ab 2003)
  • Bestand und Struktur der Wohneinheiten, Fachserie 5 Heft 1 (online ab 2006)

Forschungsdatenzentren der Statistischen Ämter des Bundes und der Länder (2016): Erhebungsunterlagen (ab Mikrozensus 1973)