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France and Germany: a history of criss-crossing demographic curves

Population and Societies

487, March 2012

n° ISSN 0184 77 83

The demographic situations of France and Germany are very different. In France, women have two children on average and the population is increasing, while in Germany, they have just one and a half, and the population is declining. If these trends continue, the French population will overtake that of Germany in the near future. Yet in the past, it was Germany that led the way in terms of demographic vigour. Gilles Pison explains the reasons for this turnaround, and its consequences.
Two centuries ago, the German population, at around 15 million inhabitants, was just half that of France. It then increased rapidly over the next 150 years, overtaking France to reach 60 million inhabitants in 1939 (versus 41 million in France). However, projections suggest that the French population may again outnumber that of Germany within the next half century.

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