Are civil partnerships in France contracted at a different age than marriages?

The number of civil partnerships contracted in France has been increasing continuously since the PACS (Pacte civile de solidarity) civil union was instituted in December 1999. In 2010, more than 200,000 PACS were signed (205,596). However, the pace of the rise has slowed considerably in the last two years.

The vast majority of PACS (95.5%) are between partners of different sexes. The number of different-sex PACS contracted in 2010 was 196,441, a figure approaching the one for marriages in the same year (251,654). The age distribution of these new PACS partners is very close to what it is for marriage (Figure 1; distributions calculated on rates per age, not numbers of PACS partners, to eliminate the influence of the population age structure on number of marriages and PACS at each age).

The maximum frequency for contracting a PACS occurs at nearly the same age as for marriage (around 26-27 years for women, 28 years for men), and the average age for getting "PACSed" (32.2 years for women, 34.8 for men) is only slightly below the average age for getting married (32.6 and 35 years respectively). The age distribution profile for same-sex PACS couples is significantly different: the peak occurs at a later age; ages are more diverse and average ages are higher.

A slighter age difference between PACS partners than spouses

The ages at which PACS civil unions are contracted (for different-sex couples) are close to marrying ages, but age differences between partners are slighter in PACS couples than in married couples: the average differences between the man’s and woman’s ages in these two types of unions are, respectively, 2.1 years and 2.7 years-0.6 years greater for married couples. Whereas PACS partners are often the same age or very close in age (born the same year or in two consecutive years), situations where the male partner was born at least 4 years before the female are systematically more frequent among married couples (Figure 2).

Union situations by sex and age at which union was contracted are fairly similar for the PACS and marriage, with a few slight differences. In the majority of marriages where the woman was under 55 years, the male partner is at least two years older. This does not apply as fully to PACS, where an age difference of at least 2 years accounts for the majority of unions only for persons below 30 years of age. As a woman’s age at union rises, the age difference between herself and her older male partner tends to fall, particularly in PACS couples. Men under 30 at the time of their union are seldom two years older than their female partner, but over the age of 30, most of them are at least two years older, at all ages and for both PACS and marriage unions.

Source: Magali Mazuy, France Prioux, Magali Barbieri, 2011, Recent Demographic Developments in France: Some Differences between Overseas Departments and Metropolitan France, Ined, Population, 66 (3-4).

Contact: Magali Mazuy

Online: May 2012