Ethnic Groups and Demographics of France

People sit in a cafe in Paris. Editorial credit: Rrrainbow /
People sit in a cafe in Paris. Editorial credit: Rrrainbow /

France is a country in the western part of Europe and has several other overseas territories. France shares its land borders with Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Andorra, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. Some of the French overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several other islands found in Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. As of 2019, the population of France was about 67 million people with the country’s capital city of Paris, having a population of 2.2 million people. Other large cities with high population in France include Marseilles, Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nice, and Lile.

Ethnic Groups In France

The majority of the people in France are believed to be descendants of the Celtic or Gauls with a mixture of Germanic (Franks) and Italic (Romans). Different parts of France are inhabited by different people having an array of heritage background. For instance, western France is inhabited by people who trace their ancestry to Breton while in the southwestern part of the country are the descendants of Aquitanian, and the northwestern part of the country are people who have Scandinavian roots. In the north-eastern part of France are people who are believed to have originated from the Alemannic people and the Southeastern region of the country is inhabited by people whose ancestry is traced to Ligurians. France is a multicultural society because of large-scale immigration over the last century. According to some estimates it is postulated that about 51 million are white who account for 85% of the total French population, six million people are of North African descent accounting for 10% of the total population, two million are black who account for 3.3% of the population, and about one million or 1.7% of the population are of Asian origin.

French Law On Ethnicity And Ancestry

According to the French law which originated in the Revolution of 1789 and reaffirmed in the French Constitution of 1958, it makes it illegal for the government to collect data on ancestry and ethnicity of the citizens. According to the estimates of the French National Institute of statistics, France in 2008 had about 5 million people who trace their ancestry to Italian immigrants, and they account for the largest ethnic group in the country. Secondly, the people who trace their ancestry to Northwest Africa are the second largest, and they were estimated to be about 3 million to 6 million people, while those who trace their origin to sub-Saharan Africa were about 2.5 million people, and those of Turkish origin was estimated to be about 200,000 people. Besides, France also has approximately 500,000 people of Romanian origin with sizeable minorities are of European ancestry such as Greeks, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish, among others.


Bretons are the Celtic ethnic group, who live mainly in Brittany, and their ancestry is traced to the speakers of the Brittonic language who originated from Great Britain’s southwestern part particularly Devon and Cornwall, and they immigrated to France during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. The migration took place in waves, beginning from the 3rd century to the 9th century mostly between 450 and 600, and they settled in Armorica which was eventually named after them as Brittany. All along the language of Brittany has been Breton which is spoken mainly in Lower Brittany. It is estimated that about 260,000 people speak Breton as of 2013. Another language which is common in Upper Brittany is Gallo. Breton language is strongly related to Cornish language and distantly related to Welsh, while Gallo is a romance language. Ethnically, Bretons, Welsh, and Cornish are Celtic Britons. The precise number of ethnic Bretons in Brittany and the whole of France is difficult to assess, but according to the estimates of 2007, it was put at about 4.3 million Bretons in France.

Romani People

The ethnic group of Romani is believed to have originated from the northern part of India presumably from the northwestern states such as Punjab and Rajasthan. The precise numbers of Romani ethnic group in France are unknown. However, estimates vary from 20,000 to 40,000 people. It is estimated that about 12,000 Romani people live in unofficial urban camps throughout the country. The French authorities have attempted to close down these camps, and in 2009 the government sent more than 10,000 foreign Romani to Bulgaria and Romania. Several linguistic pieces of evidence indicate that Romani people originated from India, and their language grammar is characteristically like other languages in India, and they share a significant similarity of basic lexicon with other Indian languages. Romani is more closely related to Punjabi and Hindi and share several phonetic attributes with Marwari language, and its grammar structure is closely related to the Bengali language.


The 2008 estimates indicated that there were about 3.5 million people of African descent and it was believed that four out of five black people in the country are of African immigrants while the rest trace their origin mainly to Caribbean ancestry. The largest African immigrants in France were Maghrebi, who are either Berbers or Arabs. In 2005, it was estimated that the majority of people of African origin trace their ancestry to Morocco, Algeria, or Tunisia, and they accounted for up to 5.8% of the country's population. 


African-Americans also known as afro-Americans, refer to black Americans who live in France. They are French citizens who trace their heritage to African Americans or the black people of the US. They are descendants from Africans of the American colonial period and have lived in France as from the 1800s. Some unofficial figures indicate that about 50,000 freed Blacks moved from Louisiana to Paris just a few years after Napoleon sold the territory to the US in 1803.

Other Ethnic Groups In France

Other ethnic groups in France include Germans, Jews, Polish, and Asians, among others. The Asian group is mainly from former French colonies in Asia such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and China other ethnic groups from Asia include the Japanese, South Asians, and Koreans. Besides, the middle easterners who are not categorized as Asians are also in France. Chinese are by far the largest ethnic group of Asian origin, and their population is estimated to be about 600,000 as of 2010.


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