We estimate mortality rates by a measure of socio-economic status in a very large sample of male German pensioners aged 65 or older. Our analysis is entirely nonparametric. Furthermore, the data enable us to compare mortality experiences in eastern and western Germany conditional on socio-economic status. As a simple summary measure, we compute period life expectancies at age 65. Our findings show a lower bound of almost 50 percent (six years) on the difference in life expectancy between the lowest and the highest socio-economic group considered. Within groups, we find similar values for the former GDR and western Germany. Our analysis contributes to the literature in three aspects. First, we provide the first population-based differential mortality study for Germany. Second, we use a novel measure of lifetime earnings as a proxy for socio-economic status that remains applicable to retired people. Third, the comparison between eastern and western Germany may provide some interesting insights for transformation countries. © 2007 von Gaudecker & Scholz.