Wednesday, 30 May 2012

How many French people live in London?

According to the BBC London is now France's sixth biggest city: "The French consulate in London estimates between 300,000 and 400,000 French citizens live in the British capital" which compares to city populations as follows:
  • Paris - 2.3m
  • Marseille - 859,000
  • Lyon - 488,000
  • Toulouse - 447,000
  • Nice - 344,000
I've heard this kind of thing before and for some reason I've always liked this story (partly because as an urban economist I am interested in whether 'diversity' is one of the things that make cities work). But this morning I started to wonder if it is true.

The French consulate has 120,000 people registered with it but assess the real number living in the UK as 300,000-400,000 (this is the figure above). But according to the ONS there are 133,000 French nationals resident in the UK (for Oct 2010 - Sept 2011, see table 2.3). We are told that the ONS numbers are 'reasonably precise' (they have a standard error of about 8,000 giving a 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 16,000). Personally, I prefer the ONS numbers because at least we are told how they arrived at them.

So let's assume that all 133,000 are living in London (which is clearly a big assumption). Comparing this figure to the population of French metro-areas* makes London the 43rd biggest city in France. Even taking the French consulates estimates and comparing it to metro-areas puts London somewhere around 20th. Interesting, I suppose, but a little disappointing and certainly not as interesting as the BBC make out ...

*[Most urban economists (and the US census bureau) prefer the 'metro' to administrative numbers because they are more reasonably based on the 'functional' city - so Paris population is around 11m making it roughly the same size as London].


Anonymous said...

Do we know how many French citizens voted in London during the recent Presidential elections ?

Prof Henry G. Overman said...

77,500 registered to vote with the London consulate according to Reuters

Xavier said...

I am Catalan (unfortunately I am still spanish too) and I live in Paris since 7 years. Jut 2 months ago I registered to the consulate. I know plenty of UE expatriates who are not registered in their consulates. So, I don't know if the people registered in the consulate (to vote) is useful to estimate how many french people is living in London.

Andy said...

For my part, I'm a UK national living in France; I've been here for the past 40 years, but have never registered with the British consulate, and don't know anyone who has.
Registering with a consulate - unless you happen to be living in a risky country - is just one bit of extra administrative hassle that most expats are happy to do without, specially if you need to travel fifty miles or more to do so. So the BBC's figures are quite feasible.
They might even underestimate, since expat French are frequently more than happy to disappear off the radar of their own bureacracy.