Économie et Statistique n° 393-394 - Life Story survey
Do places play a part in personal identity construction?
One in three of those questioned in the Life Story («Histoire de vie») survey stated that their place of origin or a place that they have an emotional attachment to are important for defining themselves. In the case where an individual has travelled a lot, their place of birth and nationality are not enough to understand how an individual's sense of belonging to a place develops. This spatial component of identity construction is evaluated in the survey by noting the successive places a person has lived in during their life and the more subjective places, such as places they have an emotional attachment to, places where they plan to live, their future burial place and their sense of geographical origin. The meaning given to these places an individual has invested in and their role as an identity referent varies according to the life path, social class and demographic characteristics of the individual. For example, people living alone, students, people who have invested in a place (owners) or people who have travelled a lot are more likely to give a place they have an attachment to as an identity referent. People under 50 years old, people with no material or professional ties and city dwellers are more likely to give a place where they plan to live in the future. Immigrants or people born of immigrant parents define themselves by referring to their place of origin much more than French people. Immigrants who have become French citizens refer less to their place of origin, even though they often cite it as a place to which they have an emotional attachment.