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Martin Coy and Ernst Steinicke (2006)

Regional Population Development in France*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 31, 3-4/2006, p. 537-574, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

The singular position of France in Europe has run like an ongoing theme through demographic development since the 18th Century. Whilst around 1800 France was still the country in Europe with the largest population, the extremely low birth rates during the entire 19th and the first half of the 20th Century led to stagnant population figures, and hence to major demographic problems which not lastly were noticeable in the two World Wars. The fall in the number of children, leading to ageing trends, started more than 100 years earlier than in other European countries. It is hence comprehensible that Germany and Great Britain in the 19th Century, and Italy in the interbellum period, overtook France in terms of numbers of inhabitants (Fig. 1). What is more, the demographic transition is also noticeable: The fall in mortality and fertility was largely parallel, so that France did not experience a widening population gap, and hence avoided a sudden increase in population size in the 19th Century, as experienced in other countries. France undoubtedly formed the innovation centre from which various "modern" modes of generative conduct started. There were particular characteristics in the progress of the population which however echo to the present day. Paradoxically, today it is particularly the high fertility rates and the weaker ageing which distinguishes France from other European countries. It is also one of the few states in Western Europe whose current growth is mainly due to a surplus of births, and only to a certain degree to migration gains. Added to this is a female life expectancy which is among the highest in the world.

* Original title: Regionale Bevölkerungsentwicklung in Frankreich (full text in German only)

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