Is the French PACS Similar to Cohabitation or Marriage? Recently Merged Census and Tax Data on Family Situations and Transitions

Giulia Ferrari, INED
Laurent Toulemon, Institut National d’Études Démographiques

We have recently observed consistent changes in couple configurations in France, with a dramatic decline in marriage rates and a recent increase in Pacs (i.e., French civil partnerships) as a new form of legal union. Although marriages and Pacs are both occurring at older ages, age at first cohabiting union is stable. Unmarried unions are thus becoming more frequent, especially at young ages, but not only.

The French demographic panel conducted by the INSEE, the French Institute for Statistics, has recently be dramatically enlarged, with a sample rate increasing from 1% to 4%, and the inclusion of tax data, in addition of census data and vital statistics. As the census is now based on annual census surveys, 14% of the sample – as of the whole population – is included in the census each year. The census allows us distinguishing, among unmarried and unpacsed adults living with others, those who are living as a couple and those who are just sharing their dwellings with relatives, friends or roommates, while tax data inform about the situation in other years, based on the identification of the partner in the dwelling.

Applying multistate life table methods to these data, we aim at investigating the distribution and the evolution from one year to the next by age and sex of different couple situations; we show that unmarried cohabitation as well as Pacsed couples are likely to become more common. All ages 20-70 together, the proportion of wen and women living as a couple would remain constant around 65%. Among couples, the part of married couples could decline from 70% to 48%, while Pacs would double, from 7% to 15%. We will next further develop the analysis by extending the observation time, stratifying by socioeconomic strata and distinguishing between same-sex and different-sex couples.

Presented in Session 46: Partnership Diversity and Partnership Well-Being