A change for population census methodology: from legal marital status to de facto conjugal situation

Guillemette Buisson, division Enquêtes et études démographiques, Insee

Up to the 1960s, marriage was the primary form of union and individuals’ legal matrimonial status (married, divorced, widowed or single) was one and the same with de facto conjugal situation. This close intertwining between actual conjugal situation and legal matrimonial status has loosened considerably over time, with the development of free union and the creation of the civil solidarity pact (PACS). The population census survey has now been changed to take that social change into account. Since the annual census survey of 2004, the question, “Do you live with a partner?” has supplemented that pertaining to legal matrimonial status. With the 2015 survey, a question on de facto conjugal situation was introduced, replacing the previous question about legal matrimonial status. The resulting information gathered has made it possible to better understand the ties between partners living in a single housing unit.

In 2016, in mainland France, out of those living in a couple in the same housing unit, 73% were married, 7% lived under a civil solidarity pact and 20% were common-law couples. The percentage of people living in married couples is declining steadily: it amounted to 87% in 1990. Since the institution of the civil solidarity pact, the percentage of common law relationships, which increased as that of married couples decreased, has stabilised: 13% in 1990, 18% in 1999, 20% in 2011, and 67% in 2016. Lastly, the percentage of civil solidarity couples has risen significantly, increasing from 4% to 7% between 2011 and 2016.

While the annual census survey no longer makes it possible to monitor the legal matrimonial status of individuals living in France, other sources can do so. The estimation method proposed here combines data from the employment survey and those of annual census surveys.

Insee Analyses
No 35
Paru le : 26/10/2017