Who Counts in the Census? Racial and Ethnic Categories in France

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Anthropology and Sociology


Social Science and Global Studies


The question of racial and ethnic statistics is part of a debate in France that has been going on for 20 years now: indeed France’s census (performed by the INSEE, Institut National de la Statistique et des etudes économiques or National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) does not include racial or ethnic categories. Furthermore, it is illegal for French structures and institutions (schools, universities, employers, corporations and public administrations) to request and hold information that includes racial or ethnic categories. At the same time, over the years, there have been several attempts – mostly unsuccessful- by scholars, non-governmental organizations and also elected officials, to argue in favor of the inclusion of ethnic statistics, as it has come to be called. This chapter will first present a demographic profile and trends of France, and then expose the methodological and theoretical issues related to the seemingly color-blindness of the French census.

Publication Title

The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity

First Page


Last Page