Academic journal article Population

Changes in Family Situations as Reflected in the French Censuses, 1962-2009

Academic journal article Population

Changes in Family Situations as Reflected in the French Censuses, 1962-2009

Article excerpt

As the population censuses show, the average household size in France has decreased steadily over the past 50 years. There are fewer complex households (comprising members other than parents and their children) and more oneand two-person households (Daguet, 2007; Breuil-Genier, 2012). This trend is driven by changes in aspects of family behaviour such as the age of departure from the parental home, union formation, births, separations, departure of adult children, widowhood, etc. The change in population structure, notably the increasing share of older adults, has also contributed in recent years to the decrease in household size. The main aim of the census is to count the number of inhabitants (to estimate de jure populations) and to describe the size and structure of local populations on the basis of simple characteristics (sex, age, employment status, place of work or study) that provide useful information for local management of their needs. But the census is also the primary data source used by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), to describe family situations at local and national levels.

After describing the family situations of the French population as observed in the 2009 census, this article presents developments over the past 40 years by systematically comparing family situations by sex and age recorded in three censuses spaced around 20 years apart: 1968, 1990 and 2009. This comparison is based on harmonized data drawn from these censuses, constructed for metropolitan France (mainland France and Corsica).

Some family situations are poorly identified by the census, whose main purpose is to count the number of occupants in each dwelling. We show how these situations can be described more accurately, either in the census itself or in more detailed surveys. Finally, the advantages of the census based on rolling annual surveys are discussed.

I. Annual census surveys

Since 2004, French census data have been collected through annual surveys. Under this rolling census system, the "census" is based on an aggregated set of five annual surveys dated for the median year. Every five years, all of the municipalities with a population under 10,000 - representing around half of the total resident population - are exhaustively surveyed, along with at least 40% of dwellings in municipalities with a population over 10,000 (8% each year). The results of the "primary analysis" of all collected census forms are therefore based on a sample of around 70% of dwellings, aggregated under the median census year. The first complete results of the new census were therefore dated 2006 and were based on the samples of the 2004-2008 survey rounds. The construction of family categories within households and the coding of occupations is performed for only a portion of the households surveyed: onequarter in small municipalities, and the whole sample in large municipalities, i.e. roughly one-third of all households. This "complementary analysis" is performed at the same time as the primary one, enabling INSEE to release results at different geographical levels in the second half of every year n. The results are dated n - 3 and are based on annual surveys conducted in the years n - 5 to n - 1 (Lefranc, 2010). The most recent complete results are therefore dated 2009 (based on annual surveys 2007-2011). Data at very different levels of detail (key figures showing simple results, detailed tables with cross-tabulation of data, and microdata files containing individual data) are available on INSEE's website, along with their documentation (INSEE, 2013).

Population enumerated in households, then grouped into families

When the census is taken, individuals are grouped into households, corresponding to dwellings that are "the household's primary residence". Within these households, the list of usual dwelling occupants serves to identify those who must be enumerated and fill out a census form. …

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