Based on data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP), this paper analyzes the dynamics of equivalent income in East and West Germany in the years following reunification. Special emphasis is given to the separation of permanent and transitory components, the persistence of transitory shocks and their implications for the persistence of poverty and inequality. The results suggest that in West Germany, between 52 and 69 per cent of cross-sectional income inequality was permanent, and that poor individuals stayed in poverty for two years on average. In East Germany, the share of the permanent component in overall income inequality rose continuously from 20 per cent in 1990 to 72 per cent in 1998, reaching a level near the one that prevailed in West Germany during the same period. The rising importance of time-invariant components in East German incomes was also reflected in expected poverty durations which slightly increased from 1.47 years in 1990 to 1.67 years in 1998. Copyright Verein für Socialpolitik and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2005.