Academic journal article Population

The New French Census and Its Impact on Mobility Studies

Academic journal article Population

The New French Census and Its Impact on Mobility Studies

Article excerpt

In France, the census is the main data source for studying migration. This contrasts with countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, where population registers are traditionally used. Other countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg have switched from a conventional census to a register census(1) - or are planning to do so - as a means to cut costs (Laihonen, 2000). The exhaustive French censuses conducted up to 1999 produced data at very fine spatial levels - neighbourhood, street block (notably to monitor priority urban development zones), etc. - and provided a means to observe the mobility of small sub-populations. Studies of recent migration trends, which aim, among other things, to describe changes in population distribution across France, focus on arrivals and departures and on net migration at specific administrative levels, i.e. commune (municipality), département, region, metropolitan France. They require data based on large samples, so generally make use of census material which also includes detailed sociodemographic information. For this reason, the French census is the main data source used by geographers, demographers, statisticians and planners interested in population mobility, local urban development or more general regional studies.

The things and events of the past tend to acquire the aura of a paradise lost, of a golden age that has gone forever, as the rough edges of reality become smoothed over with time. Concerns that censuses are too widely spaced out, that the information grows stale over the years, that the intercensal period has become longer or more irregular since 1968, or that census data is inaccurate, are all supplanted by the rose-tinted memory of an exhaustive set of statistics all collected at the same time. Moreover, the French intercensal periods are meaningless in themselves. They are not set by convention but depend solely on the budgetary constraints of the moment. The unequal length of these intervals (they have ranged from six to nine years over the last half century) has partially invalidated(2) the temporal and international comparisons based on census statistics.

With the dual aim of producing fresh information and of spreading the government cost burden more evenly, the French census has been totally redesigned. Since 2004, it has been radically transformed from a traditional exhaustive census of individuals to a sophisticated annual sample survey(3). The actual "census" now comprises a compilation of data collected over five consecutive years. As France is the only country to have adopted this census method to date, the international scientific community is following its implementation with particular interest, to identify both its advantages and its drawbacks.

With new responsibilities devolved to local government under the recent French decentralization laws, the state budgets allocated to local authorities depend partly on the size of the populations concerned, so the accuracy and freshness of census statistics is crucial. Likewise, accurate knowledge of the social fabric is vital for local decision-makers. The development of the European Union and its targeted regional development policies are also increasing demand for accurate local data.

Certain statistical information sources rely directly on the French census. One such example is the permanent demographic sample (échantillon démographique permanent, EDP), a longitudinal data source based on successive censuses and civil records covering persons born in the first four days of a particular month in the year. The new EDP project, built around the new census, is currently being developed and will considerably broaden in scope. The sample size will be multiplied by four and new administrative data will be included, taken from the annual registers of private-sector employees (déclarations annuelles des données sociales, DADS) and probably other administrative datasets(4). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.