Demographics of France
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- Disclaimer: It must be noted that reference to "French people" as an ethnic group is not present in French official terminology. Official institutes that gather statistics (such as INED or INSEE) do not use the category of "ethnic French" - whom some have translated here by "Français de souche", a term more often associated with far-right Front National than with demography in France. The French census also does not use this category or any of which regarding ethnicity. According to Dominique Schnapper, member of the Constitutional Council of France, "The classical conception of the nation is that of an entity which, opposed to the ethnic group, affirms itself as an open community, the will to live together expressing itself by the acceptation of the rules of an unified public domain which transcends all particularisms" , indicative of French citizenship.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, France's rate of population growth was low compared to its neighbours, and to its past history. However, the country's population sharply increased with the baby boom following World War II. During the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1974), the country's reconstruction and steady economic growth led to the labor-immigration of the 1960s, when many employers went looking for manpower in villages located in Southern Europe and in the Maghreb (or North Africa). French law made it easy for thousands of colons, ethnic or national French from former colonies of North and East Africa, India and Indochina to live in mainland France. In the 1970s, over 30,000 French colons left Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as the Pol Pot government confiscated their farms and land properties. However, after the 1973 energy crisis, laws limiting immigration were passed. In addition, the country's birth rate dropped significantly during this time.
Since the 1980s, France has ceased being a country of mass immigration. Meanwhile, the national birth rate, after continuing to drop for a time, began to rebound in the 1990s and currently the country's fertility rate is close to the replacement level. In recent years, immigrants have accounted for between 20 and 40% of the population growth - a lower proportion than in most other European countries - according to an INED 2004 study: "Each year, France counts 200,000 more births than deaths, while the growth due to migration (le solde migratoire - the difference between the number of migrants entering and leaving the country) is estimated to be around 65,000 people." 
 Historical population of metropolitan France
- figures are for metropolitan France only, excluding overseas departments and territories, as well as former French colonies and protectorates. Algeria and its départements, although they were an integral part of metropolitan France until 1962, are not included in the figures.
- to make comparisons easier, figures provided below are for the territory of metropolitan France within the borders of 2004. This was the real territory of France from 1860 to 1871, and again since 1919. Figures before 1860 have been adjusted to include Savoie and Nice, which only became part of France in 1860. Figures between 1795 and 1815 do not include the French départements in modern day Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, although they were an integral part of France during that period. Figures between 1871 and 1919 have been adjusted to include Alsace and part of Lorraine, which both were at the time part of the German Empire.
- figures before 1801 are modern estimates; figures from 1801 (included) onwards are based on the official French censuses.
|1806||29,648,000||1891||39,947,000||2007||61,538,322 (*) |
- 61,538,322 total without overseas departments and territories (French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, St Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna).
- 64,102,140 total with overseas departments and territories.
 Historical overview
 1800 to 20th century
Starting around 1800, the historical evolution of the population in France has been extremely atypical in the Western World. Unlike the rest of Europe, France did not experience a strong population growth in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. The birth rate in France diminished much earlier than in the rest of Europe. Consequently, population growth was quite slow in the 19th century, and the nadir was reached in the first half of the 20th century when France, surrounded by the rapidly growing populations of Germany and the United Kingdom, experienced virtually zero growth. This, and the bloody losses in France's population due to the First World War, may explain the sudden collapse of France in 1940 during the Second World War. France was often perceived as a country irremediably on the decline. At the time, racist theories were quite popular, and the dramatic demographic decline of France was often attributed (particularly in Nazi Germany, and also in some conservative circles in England and elsewhere) to the genetic characteristics of the "French race", a race destined to fail in the butt of the Germanic and Anglo-Saxon "races". In addition, the slow growth of France's population in the 19th century was reflected in the country's very low emigration rate. While millions of people from all other parts of Europe moved to the Americas, few French did so. Most people in the United States of French extraction are descended from immigrants from rapidly-growing French Canada.
To better understand the demographic decline of France, it should be noted that France was historically the largest nation of Europe. During the 17th century one fifth of Europe’s population was French (and more than one quarter during the Middle Ages). Between 1815 and 2000, if the population of France had grown at the same rate as the population of Germany during the same time period, France's population would be 110 million today -- and this doesn't take into account the fact that a large chunk of Germany's population growth was siphoned off by emigration to the Americas. If it had grown at the same rate as England and Wales (who were also siphoned off by emigration to the Americas, Australia and New Zealand), France's population could be anywhere up to 150 million today. And if we start the comparison at the time of King Louis XIV (the Sun King), then France would in fact have the same population as the United States. While France had been very powerful in Europe at the time of Louis XIV or Napoleon, the demographic decline the country experienced after 1800 made it lose this advantage.
 After World War II
After 1945 however, France suddenly underwent a demographic recovery that no one could have foreseen. It is a fact that in the 1930s the French government, alarmed by the decline of France's population, had passed laws to boost the birth rate, giving state benefits to families with children. Nonetheless, no one can quite satisfactorily explain this sudden and unexpected recovery in the demography of France, which was often portrayed as a "miracle" inside France. This demographic recovery was again atypical in the Western World, in the sense that although the rest of the Western World experienced a baby boom immediately after the war, the baby boom in France was much stronger, and above all it lasted longer than in most other countries of the Western World (the United States being one of the few exceptions). In the 1950s and 1960s France enjoyed a population growth of 1% a year, which is the highest growth in the history of France, not even matched in the best periods of the 18th or 19th centuries.
Since 1975, France's population growth has significantly diminished, being more in tune with the rest of Europe, but it still remains slightly faster than in the rest of Europe, and much faster than during the end of the 19th century or the first half of the 20th century. At the turn of the millennium, population growth in France is the fastest of Europe, matched only by Ireland and the Netherlands. However, it is significantly slower than in North America, where population trends have diverged from Europe since the 1970s.
The ranking below will help understand the past, present, and future weight of France's population in Europe and in the world:
(historical populations are counted in the 2004 borders)
- until 1795 metropolitan France was the most populous country of Europe, above even Russia, and the third most populous country in the world, behind only China and India
- between 1795 and 1866, metropolitan France was the second most populous country of Europe, behind Russia, and the fourth most populous country in the world, behind China, India, and Russia
- between 1866 and 1911, metropolitan France was the third most populous country of Europe, behind Russia and Germany
- between 1911 and 1931, metropolitan France was the fourth most populous country of Europe, behind Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom
- between 1931 and 1991, metropolitan France was the fifth most populous country of Europe, behind Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy
- between 1991 and 1997, metropolitan France recovered its rank as the fourth most populous country of Europe, behind Russia, Germany, and the United Kingdom
- since 1997, metropolitan France has recovered its rank as the third most populous country of Europe, behind Russia and Germany. Worldwide, France's ranking has fallen to twentieth most populous country.
- if current demographic trends continue (i.e. declining population in Germany, and slightly rising population in France), around 2050 metropolitan France could become again the second most populous country of Europe behind Russia.
Note that in above data, Turkey is not regarded as an European country.
 Before World War II
In the twentieth century, France exhibited a high rate of immigration. Immigration was particularly high in the 1920s and 1930s. France was the European country which suffered the most from World War I, with respect to the size of its population, losing 1.4 million young men out of a total population of 40 million. France was also at the time the European country with the lowest fertility rate, which meant that the country had a very hard time recovering from the heavy losses of the war. France had to open its doors to immigration, which was the only way to prevent population decline between the two world wars.
At the time France was the only European country with mass immigration. The other European countries, such as the UK or Germany, still had high fertility rates, and did not need immigrants. The majority of immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s came from southern Europe: Greeks, Italians, Yugoslavs, Portuguese and Spaniards, but also Eastern Europeans: Poles, Russians, Hungarians and Czechoslovaks; and Belgians (nationality, but composed of both French and Fleming-Dutch elements) and the first wave of colonial French subjects from Africa and Asia. At this time, Judaism was the second most populous religion in France, as it had been for centuries. However, this would soon change .
Local populations often opposed immigrant manpower, leading to occasional outbursts of violence. The worst of these was a pogrom against Italian workers whom worked in the salt evaporation ponds of Peccais erupted in Aigues-Mortes in 1893, killing nine and injuring hundreds on the Italian side .
 After World War II
After World War II, the French fertility rate rebounded considerably, as was explained above, but economic growth in France was so high that new immigrants had nonetheless to be brought into the country. This time the majority of immigrants were Portuguese as well as Arabs and Berbers from North Africa. The first wave arrived in the 1950s, but the major arrivals happened in the 1960s and 1970s. More than 1 million people from the Maghreb immigrated in the 1960s and early 1970s from North Africa, especially Algeria (following the end of French rule there). One million European pieds noirs also migrated from Algeria in 1962 and the following years, due to the chaotic independence of Algeria. This is a vocal point of the current turbulent relationship of France and over three million French of Algerian descent, a small percentage are third-or fourth-generation in France.
In the late 1970s, due to the end of high economic growth in France, immigration policies were considerably tightened, starting with the Pasqua laws passed in the late 1980's. New immigrants were allowed only through the family reunion schemes (wives and children moving to France to live with their husband or father already living in France), or as political asylum seekers. Illegal immigration thus developed. Nonetheless, immigration rates in the 1980s and 1990's were much lower than in the 1960s and 1970s, especially compared to other European countries. The regions of emigrations also widened, with new immigrants now coming from India, sub-saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and more recently mainland China. And in the 1970s, a small but well publicized wave of Chilean and Argentine political refugees (see Chilean coup of 1973) found asylum in France.
The large-scale immgration from Islamic countries sparked controversy in France, as some demographers state "the third world Neo-colonization of Europe" might (and had) make France an "outpost of the Arab world". On the other hand, over one million Afro-French (or "black French"), descendants of sub-Saharan African and West Indian immigrants, have enjoyed better cultural and social integration, thought some have dealt with issues of racism in French society.
As of 2006, the French national institute of statistics INSEE estimated that 4.9 million foreign-born immigrants live in France (8% of the country's population) including : Please note that the French-born children of immigrant parents are "French" and not immigrants. As a result, the number of French citizens with foreign origins is generally thought to be around 6.7 million  according to the 1999 Census conducted by INSEE, which ultimately represents one tenth of the country's population. (Ranked by the largest national groups, above 60,000 persons)
- 880,000 Portuguese
- 700,000 Algerians
- 600,000 Moroccans
- 350,000 Italians
- 280,000 Spaniards
- 200,000 Turks
- 200,000 Tunisians
- 135,000 Chinese
- 120,000 Germans
- 100,000 Britons
- 100,000 Belgians
- 100,000 Poles
- 75,000 Vietnamese
- 70,000 Senegalese
- 60,000 Malians
- 60,000 Indians
Most of the population from immigrant stock is of European descent (mainly from Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal as well Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and the former Yugoslavia) although France has a sizeable population of Arabs and Africans from its former colonies. The proportion of immigrants in France is on par with other European nations such as the United Kingdom (15%) , Germany (9%) , the Netherlands (18%) , Sweden (13%)  and Switzerland (19%) . Estimates of each South and Southeast Asian (i.e. Indians, Cambodians and Laotians) and Hispanic/ Latin American (Haitians, Chileans and Argentines) nationalities living in France are under 50,000 each.
According to Michèle Tribalat, researcher at INED, it is very difficult to estimate the number of French immigrants or born to immigrants, because of the absence of official statistics. Only three surveys have been conducted: in 1927, 1942, and 1986 respectively. According to a 2004 study, there were approximatively 14 million persons of foreign ancestry. Immigrant was defined as a first generation immigrants or people with at least one parent, grandparent, or great-parent emigreé. 5.2 million of these migrants were from South-European ascendency (Italy, Spain, Portugal); and 3 million come from the Maghreb (North Africa) . Note that this means the population that is not of foreign ancestry is only about 46 million, which is not much higher than France's population at the end of World War II (1945).
In the 2000s, the net migration rate was estimated to be 0.66 migrants per 1,000 population a year . This is a very low rate of immigration compared to other European countries, the USA or Canada. Since the beginning of the 1990s, France has been attempting to curb immigration, first with the Pasqua laws, followed by both right-wing and socialist-issued laws. The immigration rate is currently lower than in other European countries such as United Kingdom and Spain; however, some say it is doubtful that the policies in themselves account for such a change. Again, as in the 1920s and 1930s, France stands in contrast with the rest of Europe. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, when European countries had a high fertility rate, France had a low fertility rate and had to open its doors to immigration to avoid population decline. Today, it is the rest of Europe that has very low fertility rates, and countries like Germany or Spain avoid population decline only through immigration. In France, however, fertility rate is still fairly high for European standards, in fact the highest in Europe after Ireland, and so most population growth is due to natural increase, unlike in the other European countries. This difference in immigration trends is also due to the fact that the labor market in France is currently less dynamic than in other countries such as the UK, Ireland or Spain , this may even be a more relevant factor than low birth rates ( because Ireland has both the highest fertility and the highest net immigration rate in Europe , whereas Eastern European countries such as Poland or Ukraine have both a low fertility and a high net emigration rate , as well as a high unemployment rate ).
For example, according to the UK Office for National Statistics, in the three years between July 2001 and July 2004 the population of the UK increased by 721,500 inhabitants, of which 242,800 (34%) was due to natural increase, and 478,500 (66%) to immigration . According to the INSEE, in the three years between January 2001 and January 2004 the population of Metropolitan France increased by 1,057,000 inhabitants, of which 678,000 (64%) was due to natural increase, and 379,500 (36%) to immigration .
The latest 2006 demographic statistics have been released, and France's birth and fertility rates have continued to rise. The fertility rate increased to 2.00, the highest of the G-7 countries, and for the first time is higher than the United States. The link for these figures is here: http://www.insee.fr/en/ffc/ficdoc_frame.asp?ref_id=ip1118
France has not collected religious or ethnic data in its censuses since the beginning of the Third Republic, but the country's predominant faith has been Roman Catholicism since the early Middle Ages. Church attendance is low, however, and the proportion of the population that is not religious has grown significantly over the past century. A 2004 IFOP survey tallied that 44% of the French people do not believe in God; contrast with 20% in 1947 . A study by the CSA Institute conducted in 2003 with a sample of 18,000 people found that 27% consider themselves atheists, and 64.3% Roman Catholic compared to 69% in 2001. Furthermore 8.7% (5,000,000 people) belonged to some other religion.
There are an estimated 4-5 million Muslims, 1 million Protestants, 600-700,000 Jews, 600,000 Buddhists, and 150,000 Orthodox Christians as of 2000 figures. The US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2004 . estimated the French Hindu population at 121,312.
These studies did not ask the respondants if they were practicing or how often they did practice if they were active in the laity.
France is said to be experiencing a new baby boom due to the rise in fertility rate and in births.
- Total fertility rate: 2.00 children born per woman for metropolitan France and the overseas departments (2006), 1.98 for metropolitan France alone.
- Mean age of women having their first birth: 29.8 years
The table below gives the average number of children according to the place of birth of women. An immigrant woman is a woman who was born outside of France and who did not have French citizenship at birth. Source - French-Wikipedia
|Average number of children in France
|Average number of children in country of origin
|All women living in metropolitan France||1.74|
|Women born in Metropolitan France||1.70|
|Women born in overseas France||1.86|
|Immigrant women (country of birth)|
|Other Asia (Mostly China)||1.77||2.85|
|The Americas and Oceania||2.00||2.54|
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
 See also
- French people - officially a nationality, also discusses overseas French descendants.
- List of French people
- Racism by country - Article on race relations in France.
- List of fifteen largest French metropolitan areas by population
- INSEE code
- Population of Paris
- Chinese French
- French immigration to Puerto Rico
 External links
- (French) Audio book (mp3) of the introduction and first chapter of Éric Maurin's book : Le ghetto français, enquête sur le séparatisme social
- population of French communes (with more than 2000 inhabitants)
- "Une question de la seconde génération en France - Le rôle de l’école dans la formation d’une identité minoritaire, par Patrick Simon
- City Walks of Paris - Paris Tour & Travel Guide
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