On the long-run evolution of marriage and prenuptial agreements - France: 1855 - 2005

Marion Leturcq, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Nicolas Frémeaux, Université de Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas

This paper investigates the evolution of marriage in France over the period 1855-2005. We first provide homogeneous series about the evolution of marriages, prenuptial agreements and matrimonial property regimes. Second, we complete these series by presenting the evolution of wealth at marriage and dowries over the same period. The long-run analysis of marriage and prenuptial agreements indicates that the economic content of marriage has significantly changed over time. The main finding of this paper is to highlight the decline of community regimes and the rise of separate property from the 1960s. This individualisation of wealth within couples contrasts with the preeminence of community regime since the creation of the Civil Code. This evolution can be seen as a female empowerment since the married women emancipated from the authority of fathers and husbands. From a wealth perspective, this paper shows that the return of wealth in France goes along with a change in the nature of wealth that needs to be considered in historical comparisons.

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Presented in Session 20: Marriage and cohabiting patterns in the past