Academic journal article Population

Démographie Locale. Relations: Population, Logement, Migration [Local Demography: Relations between Population, Housing and Migration]

Academic journal article Population

Démographie Locale. Relations: Population, Logement, Migration [Local Demography: Relations between Population, Housing and Migration]

Article excerpt

Alfred Dittgen, Démographie locale. Relations: population, logement, migration [Local demography: relations between population, housing and migration], Strasbourg, 2012, Néothèque, Dynamique des populations locales, 220 p.

This work is a set of studies by Alfred Dittgen on relations between population trends and housing at the local scale. Dittgen began studying local populations in 1985. Here he focuses on population developments in Paris and the suburb of Marne-la-Vallée.

Dittgen is interested in the nature and impact of the housing factor in analysing local demographic dynamics and making population projections. Therein lies all the value and complexity of the local approach to demographic study.

In the first and most substantial section, he describes the connection between local populations and housing stock. He first examines population trends in Paris in the second half of the twentieth century. Population movement, directly conditioned by housing stock structure, modified the structure of the Paris population at that time: there were over twice as many entries as births, and over four and a half times as many departures as deaths.

In many western countries, the generations are less and less inclined to cohabit, and housing stock affects local population size and characteristics. In theory, an increase in number of housing units results in an increase in the population, but what is regularly observed is stability, for two reasons: first, the proportion of units available for permanent occupants (main residence) may fall as the proportion of second or occasional residences rises; second, household size may fall. In practice, then, some areas actually see a fall in inhabitant numbers despite an increase in housing units.

Household and household-member typologies are directly related to the size and occupancy status of available housing. Unit size impacts on household size but also on resident age and sex structure: large units usually receive families with children whereas smaller ones are more likely to be occupied by single persons or childless couples.

Housing occupancy status may be reflected in the proportion of residents belonging to a given socio-occupational category. Alfred Dittgen's findings show that the different types of units (for first homebuyers; private-sector or state subsidized rental housing) attract households with different socio-occupational profiles. In Paris, owners represent the "highest" social structure (most are managers), followed by private-sector tenants, and lastly, tenants of subsidized housing (most of whom are office workers).

It is quite significant that the author has chosen to study France's capital city, which differs from other European capitals in that its surface cannot be enlarged. This considerably limits its ability to grow its housing stock, especially since densification options in the city are likewise limited. Faced with spatial pressure and a fall in the average size of households occupying housing units in Paris (explained primarily by population ageing, couple break-up, and the strong attraction Paris holds for small households), the city is now losing more inhabitants every year than it gains. Dittgen shows how, despite a rising number of housing units and the city's attractive power, which remains strong, the population of Paris has been dropping continuously since the early 1950s.

One reason the city is so attractive is the high proportion of small rental units - much higher than for the greater Paris metropolitan area. The occupants of these units, single person households or young childless couples, are highly mobile and tend to live in small private-sector apartments, heavily represented in Paris. To this must be added an increasing number of second and occasional homes, the effect of which is to lower the number of units available to Parisians. All these phenomena combined - including a particularly expensive housing stock and a glaring shortage of social or subsidized housing - leads many growing households (couples with a new baby, for example) to leave Paris. …

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