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How attached are we to our home? Jacobs University researchers develop a Heimat index

A team of researchers from Jacobs University led by Professor Klaus Boehnke assessed people’s attachment to their homeland in Germany's regions. (Source: Jacobs University)


May 27, 2021
“Heimat”- the German term for “home” or “homeland” is defined in the Duden Dictionary as: “country, region, or city in which one is born and raised in, or where one feels most familiar.” In a study for the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (Bundesministerium des Innnern, für Bau und Heimat), a team of researchers from Jacobs University led by Professor Klaus Boehnke has, for the first time, assessed people’s attachment to their homeland, or “Heimat,” in Germany as an indicator of successful integration. “Those who feel more connected to their homeland report greater happiness, satisfaction with life, and optimism,” said the Professor of Social Science Methodology.

According to the research group led by Boehnke, a sense of belonging to one’s homeland encompasses eight aspects: emotional security, identification, place or landscape, time, social roots, intellectual heritage, homeland preservation, and demarcation. It was assessed in a representative survey of approximately 4,500 randomly selected individuals from all over Germany. Overall, homeland attachment proved to be quite high. On a scale of 100, it scored just under 72 points, well above the scale midpoint of 50.

In a comparison of the 16 German states, attachment to one’s home is strongest in Saarland, followed by Thuringia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. North Rhine-Westphalia, Bremen, and Berlin are at the other end of the spectrum. The federal government breaks Germany down into smaller regions: ninety-six spatial units for the federal government’s regional planning and reporting. Comparing these regions, people who live in Upper Lusatia in Saxony, in the Bavarian regions of Allgäu and Oberland, in the south of Thuringia, and in the area around Landshut experience the highest sense of affinity to their Heimat. The lowest levels of attachment to one’s homeland are found in the regions in and around Braunschweig and Duisburg-Essen, in western Saxony, in the south of Schleswig-Holstein, and in the Altmark region in Saxony-Anhalt.

The researchers at Jacobs University Professor Klaus Boehnke, Dr. Regina Arant, Dr. Georgi Dragolov, and Caroline Schnelle also looked at the determinants of attachment to one’s home in their study. Population density and economic structure play important roles. In urban, densely populated areas, attachment tends to be low. In states with few people who are employed in the service sector but many in manufacturing, it tends to be higher. Unsurprisingly, a low degree of mobility is particularly central for a stronger sense of attachment to home: the more settled individuals are, the more they feel tied to their home.

“Those who are particularly attached to their homeland, however, also express that they prefer not to share the prosperity they have earned with others from outside their homeland regions,” says Boehnke, describing another finding. This kind of prosperity protectionism should not be confused with a right-wing attitude. Those with stronger ties to their homeland come from all political philosophies, as do individuals who do not feel so closely connected. “What is exciting is that attachment to one’s homeland goes hand in hand with high approval of democracy as a form of government,” Boehnke stated. “The stronger the attachment to one’s home, the higher the satisfaction with democracy and the trust in the institutions of our country.”

The research team also found that a sense of connection to one’s homeland strengthens social cohesion and is associated with a higher sense of well-being among people. People who feel more connected to their homeland are more satisfied with their lives and are happier. According to the study, this is even more true for people with a migration background than for those without. In this respect, the research team states that attachment to one’s homeland can be seen as an indicator of successful integration. It makes a notable contribution to the quality of life of people in Germany.

Link to the study (German):
Klaus Boehnke, Regina Arant, Georgi Dragolov, Caroline Schnelle: Heimatverbundenheit. Ein neuer Sozialindikator für soziale Integration?

Questions answered by:
Dr. Klaus Boehnke
Professor of Social Science Methodology
Jacobs University
k.boehnke [at]
Phone: +49 421 200-3401