Marriages, civil unions (PACS), divorce: three recent changes in France

The 2016-3 issue of Population presents and assesses demographic developments in these life events in France in 2014.

Marriages involving at least one non-French person

In 2014 in metropolitan France, the proportion of mixed marriages (one French and one non-French partner) reached 14.1% (34,060 marriages). The sex of the non-French partner in mixed opposite-sex marriages is evenly split between male and female.
Mixed marriages were less common between two women (5.2%, versus 15.0% for marriages between two men). Moreover, the proportion of marriages between two non-French persons reached an all-time high of 3.6% (8,759 marriages).
The mean age difference between spouses in mixed marriages was wider, notably when the woman was not French. In this case, in 2014, the age difference (absolute mean difference) was 5.3 years, versus 4.1 years for marriages between two non-French persons and 2.4 years for marriages between two French citizens.

A significant decrease in divorces and an increase in dissolutions of PACS unions

The number of divorces in France fell by 1,678 between 2013 and 2014, reaching its lowest level since 2002.
This fall is due more to decrease in divorce than to a decrease in the number of people who are married (and thus potentially able to divorce). Between 2010 and 2014, the number of divorces decreased by 8% while the number of married persons decreased by only 1% (Bellamy, 2016).
Divorce began to increase in the 1970s (Sardon, 1996). Before this period, the probability of divorce was very low, with only 5% of marriages ending in divorce within the first 10 years of marriage, and less than 10% overall.
The probability of divorce depends mainly on the duration of marriage. In 2014, as in 2013, divorce rates were highest at 5 years of marriage (Bellamy, 2016; Mazuy et al., 2015).

Proportion of marriages that have already ended in divorce, by duration and year of marriage

Meanwhile, the number of PACS dissolved in 2014 increased by 6,727 with respect to 2013. This is greater than the increase in the number of PACS signed, but represents a slowing in comparison to the previous periods (+8,033 between 2012 and 2013, and +9,505 between 2011 and 2012). The opening of marriage to same-sex couples in 2013 explains a portion of the increase in the absolute number of dissolutions per marriage.

Different seasonality for marriages and civil unions

The peak in marriages occurs between June and August, while for PACS unions, a slight peak is observed late in the year. Seasonal variations in marriages and PACS are similar for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The contrast between marriages and PACS is more marked than that between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. The respective representations and modes of organizing marriages and PACS (weddings being more festive, associated with summer, involving family, and often with many guests while civil union ceremonies are primarily administrative, less connected to traditional and family obligations, often more small-scale) apply in the same way to same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Source: Magali Mazuy, Magali Barbieri, Didier Breton, Hippolyte d’Albis, 2016, Recent Demographic Developments in France: A Decline in Fertility, an Increase in Mortality, Ined, Population, 71 (3)

Contact: Magali Mazuy

Online: January 2017