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The Middle Classes in the west Paris Periurban Fringes

Claire Aragau, Martine Berger et Lionel Rougé
Traduction de Alvin Harberts
Cet article est une traduction de :
Les classes moyennes dans les couronnes périurbaines : l’exemple de l’ouest de la région parisienne

Résumé

Paris region is confronted to an important phenomenon of social polarization. Periurban rings surrounding the city are today the only metropolitan areas in which mid-management jobs are the most numerous among active socio-professional group, although their importance tends to decrease due to the strong growth and spread of executive jobs. The ubiquity of spatial distribution of the middle class hides however a great diversity of social positions, statuses, residential strategies within the category. According to the social milieu and the residential proximities but also the residential and daily mobility strategies, a fracture takes shape between a fraction of the middle class assimilated to executives belonging to a “high middle class”, and the “low middle class”. The latter being composed of foremen and supervisors, often assimilated to white-collars and laborers, often constrained to become owners further away from town. Statistical analysis based on detailed files from the census and households inquiries conducted in the Parisian great west (Grande Couronne and adjoining administrative departements) highlight the integration of the middle class in the periurban space, making it a space of resources, family proximities, social ascension and security through homeownership. Yet, these analyzes also highlight the weakening of a fraction of the middle class caused both by the rapid increase of property value in the closest suburbs and the increasing cost of mobility. While household adaptation strategies often favor proximities, local governments are seeking new forms of periurban development.

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1Periurban areas, and more broadly urban peripheries, have often been described as the universe of the middle classes, both when they were formed in the 1970s (Bauer and Roux, 1976) and after the migratory waves of the 1980s and 1990s (Donzelot, 1999, 2004; Jaillet, 2004). What is the situation today in a region where social polarisation is very strong and is growing stronger with metropolisation processes? While these areas are still the only parts of the Paris urban region where intermediate professions constitute the largest socio-professional group among household reference persons, their share is shrinking in the face of the strong growth of professional and managerial staff and their increasingly wide distribution throughout the regional area. The relatively uniform spatial distribution of households in intermediate occupations actually hides a wide diversity of social positions, status, residential strategies and mobility programmes. While, in the centre of the region, these households have a high proportion of single persons at the beginning of the professional cycle, they are characterised on the outskirts by a very high proportion of dual-income couples.

  • 1 This work was carried out within the framework of two research conventions for the PUCA: "Secondary (...)

2The diversity of profiles and changes in the behaviour of the intermediate professions are presented here based on the example of a large Parisian West, i.e. two departments in the greater Paris region (Yvelines and Val-d'Oise) and a periurban ring of cantons in the border departments of Eure, Eure-et-Loir and Oise1. Periurbanisation began at the end of the 1960s, driven by the westward shift in the centre of gravity of jobs in the Paris region, and is now associated with processes of maturity. More affected than the east of the region by the Parisian context of metropolisation and the rise in job qualifications, the western Paris region and its margins recorded a very significant increase and a wide diffusion of executive households, but continue to offer strong contrasts in the social composition of resident populations (Berger et al. 2014), despite the sharp contraction of workers' jobs in the Seine valley and the medium-sized towns of the nearby Paris Basin. Distance from Paris is still a structuring factor in land values and in the distribution of social groups.

3What role do households in intermediate occupations play in local social combinations? With whom do they choose to neighbour, especially in periurban areas? Statistical analyses and household surveys (see box) highlight both the anchoring of the middle layers in the periurban space, which functions as a space of resources, family proximity, social ascension and security through home ownership, sometimes as a refuge for the most vulnerable in certain segments of the housing stock; but also the weakening of part of these middle layers in the face of the high property value in the nearest periurban areas, and the explosion of mobility costs. From the point of view of the social environment and residential proximity, but also of residential and daily mobility strategies, a gap is emerging, in these areas as in the rest of the region, between a fraction of middle classes associated with executives within a "high middle class" (in the same household, in the same municipalities or in the same type of housing category), and the "small middle classes", more often composed of foremen and supervisors, less qualified, closer to employees and workers, more pressured to leave Ile-de-France especially if they wish to access property ownership.

Sources and methods Box

The statistical analysis covered 1,299 communes located in two departments in the western Paris region (Yvelines and Val-d'Oise) and in a ring of cantons in the bordering departments (Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Oise, Seine-Maritime), i.e. a contact and overlapping zone between the urban area of Paris and those of medium-sized urban centres in the nearby Paris Basin, within a radius of 20 to 100 km from the centre of Paris.

1,055 municipalities are now classified as periurban or multi-polarized (according to the 2010 delimitation of urban areas) and have more than 1 million inhabitants. Half of these periurban communes have fewer than 500 inhabitants, and a third of periurban people live in communes with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. These areas around Paris also include small and medium-sized towns in the orbit of the Paris employment centre: 177 communes (or one in six periurban communes) are urban in 2010 as defined by INSEE, and are home to just over half a million inhabitants.

The statistical analyses are mainly based on the detailed files of the 1990 and 2006 population censuses (collections 2004 to 2008). The latter was preferred to more recent sources because we had at that date a more detailed breakdown of the CSPs of reference persons from working and retired households than the nomenclature into 8 items, and a wider range of variables on residential mobility and nationalities. Although less complete, the results of the latest available census to date (2012) confirm the developments identified between 1990 and 2006, both in terms of the relative share of intermediate occupations and their distribution.

We have chosen to approach the middle classes through the socio-professional category of households in intermediate occupations rather than on the basis of household income data. Indeed, the population size of periurban rural communes (which represent 2/3 of the sample) strongly limits the available tax sources: for communes with less than 2,000 inhabitants, it is not possible to know the income distribution in quartiles or deciles, only their median value.

250 semi-directive interviews were conducted with households living in villages, small towns or rural communes, mainly in 4 sectors (cf. map 1): around Maule and Guerville (Yvelines), in Vexin (Val-d'Oise), in the Communauté de Communes du Pays Houdanais (Yvelines and Eure-et-Loir), as well as in the cantons of Pacy and Saint-André (Eure). Within this panel, which includes a variety of socio-demographic profiles, we selected households from the spectrum of "intermediate occupations" in the private or public sector, working or retired, for a total sample of 95 interviews. The distribution of survey areas thus offers a transect highlighting the effects of distinct local contexts, linked to the history of urbanization, the variety of socio-economic profiles and social neighbourhoods, and the diversity of contacts between urban and periurban fabrics.

Map 1: Location of survey areas

Map 1: Location of survey areas

The middle classes in the greater west of Paris: a central piece of the spatial and social puzzle

Behind a uniform distribution and broad access to periurban residential property, a very diverse group

  • 2 The ratio of the standard deviation of a variable to its mean.
  • 3 Interquartile interval.

4In the greater west of Paris, households whose reference person belongs to the intermediate professions still constitute the largest group, both in the area as a whole and in the outer suburbs in general. Their spatial distribution is relatively little contrasted compared to that of executives or workers. This is reflected in the low value of the coefficients of variation2 of their relative share in the communes of the greater west of Paris (0.38 in 2006, instead of 0.63 for executives), as in the Île-de-France as a whole (0.32 at the same date, against 0.53 for executives). Half of the households in intermediate occupations live in municipalities where their share is between 15 and 20%3, instead of 9 to 23% for executives.

5Although their share is somewhat lower in Paris intramuros - where they represented only 15.8% of households in 2006 - intermediate occupations are not particularly concentrated in the outer suburbs. Thus in the greater west of Paris, their proportion, unlike that of executives, varies little according to the types of space and distance to Paris: around 18% of households in the Paris conurbation as in its outer suburbs, 15% in the other urban centres and 17% in their periurban belts with a maximum in the areas between 20 and 40 km from Paris, it decreases little with distance (cf. map 2), unlike that of executives, for which the gradient is much stronger (see Table 1), as is the effect of the cardinal position. Compared to the situation in 1990, the differences between rings and types of space narrowed significantly in 2006, as did the coefficients of variation. These observations on the fairly homogeneous distribution of households in intermediate occupations and their distribution throughout the area are consistent with the results of research work on both socio-professional categories and household incomes, which underline the importance, in Île-de-France, of "mixed medium spaces" (Préteceille, 2006), particularly in the outer suburbs (Kesseler, 2009 ; Sagot, 2013), and confirm the strong convergence between the distribution of intermediate occupations and that of average incomes, at a time when the links between social and income structures are tending to strengthen (Fleury et al., 2012).

Table 1 - Middle and senior professional households in the greater west of Paris*. According to the types of communes and the distance to Paris

  

All households

Owners of single family houses

As % of all households

Coefficient of variation

% intermediate professions

% executives

Intermediate professions

executives

Intermediate professions

executives

1990

2006

2012

1990

2006

2012

1990

2006

1990

2006

1990

2006

1990

2006

Whole area

17,4

17,6

17,3

15,6

17,0

17,1

0,47

0,38

0,77

0,63

17,9

16,7

19,0

21,1

according to the type of municipality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

periurban municipalities**

16,7

17,8

17,6

13,1

15,0

14,8

0,51

0,41

0,80

0,63

18,3

17,9

15,2

17,2

Paris periurban zone

17,5

18,2

18,1

15,3

17,2

16,8

0,50

0,37

0,72

0,58

19,1

18,1

18,3

20,0

of which rural municipalities

17,3

18,5

18,3

15,3

18,4

18,3

0,54

0,40

0,73

0,59

18,5

18,4

17,5

19,9

of which urban municipalities

17,7

18,1

18,0

15,3

16,4

15,9

0,33

0,26

0,65

0,53

19,7

17,7

18,9

20,0

other périurbain**

15,0

16,8

16,6

8,1

10,3

10,3

0,52

0,45

0,83

0,61

16,5

17,6

9,0

11,7

Paris conurbation***

18,5

18,2

17,7

18,6

20,0

20,3

0,25

0,24

0,49

0,45

18,0

15,8

24,7

26,9

other urban centres

14,7

15,1

15,1

9,1

9,8

9,7

0,34

0,28

0,63

0,62

16,6

16,0

12,1

14,6

according to distance to Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

less than 40 km

18,6

18,3

17,8

19,2

20,5

20,7

0,32

0,31

0,53

0,45

18,4

16,2

25,0

26,9

40-59 km

16,8

17,1

17,4

11,7

13,5

13,6

0,45

0,35

0,61

0,52

19,0

18,1

15,7

17,8

60-79 km

14,4

16,3

16,0

8,8

10,8

10,6

0,52

0,38

0,71

0,61

15,6

16,9

10,2

13,1

80 km or more

14,9

15,8

15,7

8,5

9,8

9,9

0,53

0,46

0,83

0,63

16,9

17,1

10,2

13,0

* All the departments of Yvelines and Val-d'Oise, cantons close to Île-de-France in Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Oise and Seine-Maritime. ** Including multipolarized communes; *** communes of the urban centre of Paris in the Yvelines and Val-d'Oise.

Sources: RP 1990, 2006 and 2012 (full expl.). Household reference persons.

6Even if the western Ile-de-France region welcomes proportionally less middle classes than the east of the region, the very regular distribution of households in intermediate professions, working and retired, reflects their wide access to residential property, mainly periurban. In the greater west of Paris, in 2006, 4 out of 10 households in intermediate occupations (43.5%) and 6 out of 10 retirees in this category (58%) owned a single family house. This is the case for more than half of executives (56.5%), but only one in three working class households (36%) and one in five employees (22.4%). Widely present in the outer suburbs, intermediate professions form a pivotal group, sometimes associated with executives, sometimes with more modest categories (Berger, 2004). Calculated for all the communes in the study area, the correlation coefficients between the share of intermediate occupations and that of executives or employees are not significant, attesting to the absence of regular associations with these groups (cf. Table 2 and Appendix 1), while opposition with the location of workers remains slight (r = -0.24, in 2006, for all households). In the most valued sectors, closer to Paris, retired executives and intermediate professions are still close, but the distance between the working population of these two categories is increasing (r = -0.24 in the Paris conurbation and -0.33 in the urban communes of the periurban area of Paris), in contrast to the small and medium-sized urban centres of the peripheral departments (r = +0.35), where the distribution of intermediate professions is opposed to that of the workers and moves away from that of the employees.

7If we consider only households owning single family houses, the locations of intermediate professions are slightly more clearly opposed to those of executives (-0.16, for all municipalities; -0.51 in the Paris conurbation and -0.46 in the urban municipalities of the periurban area of Paris), but the correlations with employees and workers testify to the absence of exclusion. Are the intermediate professions, far from "secession" and retreating into their own territories, not the guarantors of maintaining a certain social mix in the urban peripheries, unlike the more segregated central spaces?

Table 2 - Linear correlation coefficients between intermediate professions (working and retired) and other CSPs in 2006 in the greater west of Paris*: all households and single family house owners

Type of municipality

Households in intermediate occupations

Working

Retired

with working

With retired

executives

staff

labourers

executives

labourers

All households

All municipalities (1299)

-

-

-0,24

-

-

Paris conurbation (154)

-0,24

0,15

-

0,37

-

Other urbans centres (90)

0,35

-0,26

-0,45

0,35

-

Paris periurban area

of which urban municipalities (129)

-0,33

-

-

0,34

-0,26

of which rural municipalities (472)

-

-

-0,23

-

-

Other periurban areas

of which urban municipalities (48)

-

-

-0,25

0,32

of which rural municipalities (406)

-

-

-0,29

-

-

Single family house owners

All municipalities (1299)

-0,16

-

-

-

-

Paris conurbation (154)

-0,51

0,53

0,38

-

-

Other urban centres (90)

-

-

-0,17

0,27

-

Paris periurban area

of which urban municipalities (129)

-0,46

-

0,37

0,25

-0,19

of which rural municipalities (472)

-0,20

-

-0,12

-

-0,12

Other periurban suburbs

of which urban municipalities (48)

-

-

-

-

-

of which rural municipalities (406)

-

-

-0,21

-

-

* All the departments of Yvelines and Val-d'Oise, cantons close to Île-de-France in Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Oise and Seine-Maritime.

Source: Insee, RGP 2006 (complementary exploitation). These are the socio-professional categories of reference persons in households, working or retired. The figures in brackets indicate the number of municipalities on which correlation coefficients have been calculated. "-" : coefficient not significant.

  • 4 For the French by acquisition (6% of households in intermediate occupations, working or retired), t (...)

8This also seems to be indicated by the significant increase in home ownership among households in intermediate occupations (working or retired) whose reference person is a foreign national. In the greater west of Paris, in 2006, 34% of these households lived in a single-family home which they owned (instead of 30% in 1990), while for the French people born in this same CSP, the proportion of single-family home owners did not increase (a little less than one in two households)4. Partly linked to the ageing of foreign communities, this increase concerns both the oldest settled communities from southern Europe and more recent immigrants from the Maghreb and Turkey. It can be observed both in the most disputed and valued areas (Paris conurbation, urban communes in the Paris periurban zone) and in more rural areas, where rates are comparable to those of French households.

9But the relatively uniform distribution of intermediate occupations covers a wide range of occupations, household and housing types, social environments and residential status. Among households in intermediate occupations, foremen and supervisors are distinguished by a high rate of home ownership (57%), well above the average for working people in this category (44%), close to that of retirees (62%) and equivalent to that of executives. But on average they live further away from Paris (44 km instead of 40 for the other working households in intermediate occupations, and 41 km for pensioners in this category) and more often in rural communes. For these "small middle classes", home ownership is a form of recognition of a social ascent for a category often of working class origin that cannot access ownership in the central collective park, which is too expensive. Foremen and supervisors were also more numerous in trades that made it easier, for them to build things themselves, as was widely practised between the two World Wars, or at least to invest in terminal fitting-out work, which made it possible to reduce costs.

10In addition to their professional diversity, to identify the middle classes of the urban peripheries, which often belong more than those of the central districts and suburbs close to biactive couples, it is also advisable to take into account the couple professions. Among double career couples whose reference person is classified in intermediate professions, homogamy is strong: 4 out of 10 spouses belong to the same CSP. While executive spouses are more frequent in the Paris conurbation, female employees and workers in the secondary urban centres, there are few differences between the different types of periurban spaces, except for a larger proportion of female employees in the Paris urban area and workers beyond. The increasingly regular distribution of households in intermediate occupations thus covers a diversity of social and spatial situations, and is the result of differential developments according to sectors in recent decades.

A weakened group?

  • 5 Numbers development index:

11In a context of a sharp slowdown in periurban growth since the 1990s, the numbers of households in intermediate occupations have grown at the same rate as those of households as a whole, but at a slower pace than those of executives5. Their proportion has remained stable (around 17.5%), with an increase in retirees in this category (from 3% in 1990 to 5% in 2006), but their distribution is marked by major internal redistributions. The share of foremen and supervisors is declining significantly in favour of more skilled categories: they represent one in seven intermediate occupational households in 2006, instead of just over one in five (22%) in 1982. The distribution of the group of intermediate professions since 1990 (see Map 2 and Table 1) results mainly from their progression in the second periurban rings, in the rural communes of the Paris periurban zone and around urban centres other than Paris, while their relative share decreases in the Paris conurbation and stagnates in the urban communes of the Paris periurban area, faced with competition from executives better able to support the rise in property prices accentuated by the rise in qualifications in the metropolitan system (Berger, 2013).

Map 2: Intermediate occupational households in the western Ile-de-France region

Map 2: Intermediate occupational households in the western Ile-de-France region

Legend of the 2 maps: share of households whose reference person is active and occupies an intermediate profession (out of all active and retired PR)

12In the inner periurban area, as in the Paris urban area, the middle classes have begun to age despite the departure of a very large number of retirees to the province, and are recording very negative net migration for working households with the province, which is no longer offset by gains from the rest of Ile-de-France. The increase in the number of intermediate occupations in these areas is now mainly the result of endogenous growth, limited by the departure of some of the young decohabitants to the centre of the conurbation. Beyond this, in the rural communes of the periurban area of Paris and around the other urban centres, the contribution of Ile-de-France migrants compensates for departures to other regions. This is a far cry from the highly positive migratory sales of executives, who have strengthened their positions in all the periurban areas, whatever their distance from Paris: they represented 19% of single family house owners in the zone as a whole in 1990, 21% in 2006, while the share of intermediate professions fell, at the same time, from 18% to 17%.

13For middle-class households, access to home ownership has become more difficult. While the share of intermediate occupations among new entrants remains stable (22.9% in 1990, 23.9% in 2006), their composition is changing to the detriment of foremen and supervisors, who in 2006 represent only one household in seven of the intermediate occupations recently established, instead of one in five in 1990. In 2006, executives accounted for almost a third of new single family house owners, compared with a quarter in 1990. Faced with this growing competition, households in intermediate professions wishing to access residential property are forced to move further and further away from Paris (49.1 km on average in 2006, compared with 44.8 km in 1990 for new entrants), while executives manage to bid higher to stay closer to the centre (39.5 km in 2006, instead of 36.8 km in 1990). All other things being equal, with regard to their age and household structure, the probability for intermediate occupations to reside or move into an owner-occupied single family house decreases significantly compared with the executives chosen as the reference modality: the odds ratio thus goes from 0.94 to 0.75 between 1990 and 2006 for all households and from 0.99 to 0.79 for new entrants (see Annex 2).

14The social neighbourhoods of the middle classes thus tend to change, as shown by the evolution of linear correlation coefficients with other socio-professional categories (cf. Table 2 and Appendix 1). Thus, for single family house owners, the correlation between middle-profession households and working or retired executives becomes negative (respectively -0.16 and -0.20), while the correlation with workers, negative in 1990 (-0.15) is no longer significant in 2006. It is in the Paris conurbation and in the urban communes of the Paris periurban area that these dynamics of specialisation of social neighbourhoods are most marked, with a rapprochement of intermediate professions and employees, even workers.

15If they remain owners of a single family house more often than employees and workers, households in intermediate professions thus see their possibilities of residential mobility to the nearby periurban zones restricted, and their residential environments modified. They live more and more often in rural communes situated in second or third level periurban rings, whose population size limits the facilities. Residential property is still a marker of social position and rise, especially for the "small middle classes" of foremen and supervisors; it constitutes a security mechanism as an asset, but also as a guarantor of a neighborhood that is more valuable than that of the collective units of the outer suburbs. It is also the outcome of a family project, even if the individual home diversifies its clientele, with the evolution of household structures in an old periurbanization sector, which now includes several generations of periurban dwellers, whose trajectories, social environments and ways of living are different. What are the effects of these changes on the territorial strategies of the middle classes, their anchoring in the periurban space, which functions as a place of resources, social advancement and security through home ownership?

The territorial strategies of the middle classes in the western Ile-de-France periurban areas: between the maintenance of fundamental trends and the start of readjustments

16Resident discourses provide information on the construction of residential choices and offer a key to understanding how these middle-class households invest in periurban contexts, from housing to practiced and represented territories. They also allow us to approach, in terms of age effects or positions in the family cycle, the construction of social identities in the diversity of relationships with space (Benoît-Guilbot, 1986; Bacqué, Vermeersch, 2013).

Diversification of the periurban “living model”

  • 6 The excerpts from interviews quoted concern households in intermediate professions in the private a (...)

17For many of the households we met6, ownership of a single family house remains a major element towards which the life project tends or must tend (Debroux, 2011). However, according to age, social background and residential trajectories, the meaning given to it and the places where it is inscribed differs.

18Often presented as the homes of families with children, periurban spaces have diversified from a generational point of view. A large proportion of today's retired households do not move; they appreciate their installation, in connection with the force of appropriation of the single family house model (Raymond et al., 1967) combining plasticity and attachment to the home (Berger et al., 2010): "We no longer want to change housing, we are attached to our house" (Retired, Pacy-sur-Eure, Eure), "The day when we will need it, we will convert the study into a bedroom. It will be attached to the bathroom. Everything will be on the same level" (Retired, Beynes, Yvelines). The transformation of the initial periurban context, often "caught up" by urbanization and in which services, shops and facilities have developed, is also a participating factor, making it more habitable with the rise in age. Finally, when a move is envisaged, it is often in the direction of small urban centres but always in this suburban area, to maintain friendly or family relations built over a long period of time and maintain local involvement: "It depends on our health, we could take an apartment in the centre of Pacy for example" (Retired people, Pacy-sur-Eure).

19It is also the more marked presence of young "decohabitants" that participates in this generational renewal. Children of the first periurban peoples they recognize that they are less and less tempted to leave the places in which they were born. Valuing an intermediate situation, they feel less the desire to "live in a dense city" and all the more so as the high cost of housing in the agglomeration slows them down. "The residential trajectory...a financial choice mainly (the young man). He works on Saint-Quentin...I'm on Dreux... yes, I had to cut the pear in half...I have my parents who live 10 km away. So, it's true that it allowed us to choose the place... We knew the area, so it was nice to come and live here (the young girl)" (Young couple, Houdan, Yvelines). The young adults we met mainly seek to locate themselves near stations and/or in the centres of the towns and small cities that link the western Ile-de-France region, where a supply of rental housing is developing, an alternative to home ownership in a single-family home: "I was born in the area,... my father worked in Paris, so I immediately looked for a job in Paris too, but stayed there...". (Young couple with two small children, tenant of an HLM house, Saint-André-de-l'Eure, Eure). However, over the course of the interviews, all expressed the desire, in the medium term, to acquire ownership of a detached house. Confirming the strength of this housing model as a marker of a social position and promotion and, therefore, as an explanatory factor for the continuation of residential sprawl: "We wait to build or buy in Saint-André, it's a project, an ideal, ... in relation to the children, ... the problem is that it's more and more in demand Saint-André, it's getting closer to Paris, so maybe we'll look in a smaller town around" (Young couple with two small children, tenant of a HLM house, Saint-André-de-l'Eure, Eure).

20Living and acquiring a detached house in the "countryside", but not too far from amenities, always meets a need for space and "tranquillity" for the education of children: "A village in which there would be a school, not too far from a college, everything that could be useful to children when they grow up and then with small shops and a social activity..., not too far from Cergy" (Couple, forties with children, Nesle-La-Vallée, Val-d'Oise). This type of housing, for households encountered in the developed sectors of the Yvelines near the agglomeration, in the Vexin RNP (Regional Natural Park), or in the Eure Valley, seems to be part of a form of "social normality", allowed by an "opportunity" (Jaillet et al., 2005): "Local offers were monitored, word of mouth was spread and then we fell in love" (Couple, 40s, Maule, Yvelines).

21On the other hand, for households moving towards the Île-de-France margins, home ownership of a single family house remains a symbol of upward social mobility and residential trajectory, the mark of secure housing in an uncertain economic context. Their residential project is carried out in successive stages, especially when leaving areas of the agglomeration which they do not appreciate: "We were in Blanc-Mesnil (northern suburbs of Paris), owners of an apartment, then we came here to buy but first we rented a house, to see how Pacy was and if we felt well there" (Couple, 50s, Pacy-sur-Eure), more often in the direction of more socially diversified places and is less an explicit residential strategy..: "I never told myself - well I'm going to live in Saint-André - it was the price of the lots..., for the children it was better, we were in HLM, it wasn't La Courneuve (social housing apartments in north of Paris) either, but at one point there were young people yelling..." (Couple, forty with two children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure). However, unlike modest households oriented by the land and real estate market towards a distant periurban area, sometimes underlining a painful installation (Rougé, 2005), the speeches of these households - with social situations perhaps less comfortable (working in the public sector, less financial contribution) but nevertheless inserted professionally, are tinged with negotiations, choices and accommodations valuing a form of proximity with "urban" amenities: "We wanted something old at first, but we did not have the capacities to renovate, therefore we had it built. The last thing we wanted was an apartment. After that, we would have liked to be a little more in the countryside, but we were realistic. We realized that having services nearby was more practical. In any case, it's better than before, we're getting closer to our ideal. Most importantly we own our house, we are at home" (Couple with two children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure).

22These residential choices and the paths in the periurban spaces that these "middle classes" operate, between constraints and compromises, allow these households to consider themselves all as being in between two small towns that seem to correspond to their expectations and draw singular ways of doing territory.

The desire for a “living countryside” and a weakening of the opposition discourse to the city

23Although the practices of the spaces by the periurban people of the western Ile-de-France are still strongly structured by the use of the car, with a strong increase and dispersal in frequented places, they cannot be interpreted as only reticular and "above ground". The stability of older and younger people and their locations in the more "central" areas of the periurban areas is part of a dynamic transformation of the spatial morphology of towns and small cities. Beyond the impact that these movements may have on the rise in property prices in certain sectors, this generational diversification generates a renewal of the commercial fabric and equipment and a redeployment of local practices; public policies accompany them through their housing programmes, the creation of new public spaces and the enhancement of open spaces (Poulot, 2013). Senior citizens, for example, appreciate these centralities on a human scale (Aragau and Poulot, 2012), far from the gigantism of the shopping centres on the outskirts of the conurbation. The young natives navigate rather well between the recreational centrality of the big city and a local space that they know and whose commercial and cultural offer has increased.

24As a whole, the working and retired of these middle classes are drawing a complexification of spatialities. They increasingly favour forms of local ties (schools, shops, services, families, friends, neighbours) which can go as far as the search for a job relocation - thus allowing a resynchronisation between professional and family life. These readjustments give value to the periurban location and are the vectors of a socialization: "I have my little habits now, I recognize the faces, it's nice, I know the parents of my daughter's friend..., Saint-André I go there every day to shop..". (Couple with children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure). The households we met say they are getting to know and recognize each other: "Here are many families between the ages of 30-40. In the centre there are perhaps a little more elderly people and precariousness but here it is rather average" (Couple with two children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure); or again: "In the allotment we all have the same profile, we all come from the same socio-cultural background, it is easier" (Single woman with two children, hospital nurse, Pacy-sur-Eure).

25They are close by and, after the first years of settlement, they are present in the associative fabric (first through children). However, they are no longer as much as in the past "conquerors" or "adventurers" (Bidou, 1981); in particular the better-off, assured that they have made a good investment and live "in the right place":"[...] living environment, proximity to the centre, nearby associations, school busses, there is even a small tractor in winter to clear the roads! Pacy is a city selective by money, by the acquisition of land. Things are well instituted on the commune, we do not make noise, we do not disturb. We're close to Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. On the other hand, it is always the same electoral list, but we, on our side, remain on our gains since the children no longer go to school." (Couple, 50s with two children, Pacy-sur-Eure).

26Living in a "living countryside" (Aragau, 2013) has increasingly become the object of a strong symbolic attachment that can be found, especially among the "small middle classes" but which reaches the upper layers, through the rhetoric of an anchorage to the place (whether it is under construction or more effective): "We have acquaintances here, I am a neighbourhood referent, I am someone open" (Couple with two children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure). At the same time, the distance from the city appears more "measured" and less "compulsive" in its negative aspect than in the past. Households try to find a balance between the "practice of the urban" and the "quiet of the countryside": "For shopping, it's true that at first we still had the reflex to go to the supermarket... You have 12,500 different shelves, 53,000 different packets of chips... We waste time, it's indecent. And then there's this very impersonal thing... well, the state of mind to have come here is to be a little quieter; so it's true that as a result we went back to the mini-market here in Thoiry by also comparing the prices.... It's not more expensive, sometimes it's cheaper" (Couple of active, Goupillières, Yvelines). It even seems that the challenge is less to flee the city than to find anchorage, which seems to be facilitated by the increasingly polycentric organization of the Parisian metropolis and a strong use of open spaces as places where one meets "like-minded individuals". Thus the periurban experience would be, to use the words of a resident of Breuil-Bois-Robert (Yvelines): "Comfortable, green and practical", and we can therefore understand the desire of these middle classes to maintain their environment as it is and their fears with regard to urbanization processes. Reactive and concerned, they are vigilant with regard to the preservation of a "living environment" hybridizing towns and countryside (a sort of E. Howard “garden cities”) and put pressure on local political actors in the direction of "harmonious densification" and in favour of "the atmosphere of a large town".

27These speeches are not unlike the idea developed by Marie-Christine Jaillet when she speaks of "reinsurance" and "good distance" (Jaillet, 2009). Certainly, the dynamics of social polarization continue, even accelerate in certain sectors - in connection with the strong pressure exerted by the residential strategies of executives and the effects of "clubs" (Charmes, 2011). However, most of the speeches collected from households surveyed in this vast western Ile-de-France sector are still marked by a positive appreciation of the social and generational diversity that they experience in their homes, in the neighbourhood, at the market, in schools, and which is for them a sign of "diversity".

28Depending on the context, the possibility of a negotiation for a better cohabitation with categories, certainly not too different, but at least more diversified, emerges well. For some respondents, this cohabitation with executives living in the same environment should be activated: "There are two populations here, the one of the week with normal people and the one arriving on Thursday from the chic Paris suburbs, because we must not confuse. There is the true Parisian always friendly and those of the 92, 93, 78... ; the shopkeepers here, they do not care too much for the middle classes, so we go to Evreux or Vernon" (Couple, 40s, Pacy-sur-Eure) or again : "There are many second homes in Pacy. I would say that the population has an average level. There is social housing. You can see all the categories at Pacy, the social mix is well respected. It's a nice little town" (Couple, 50, Pacy-sur-Eure). For others, this cohabitation is established towards more popular categories: "Him: The local population is quite cosmopolitan, there is everything, I have seen everything here, but I do not focus on origins. There are old people, but it is rather young here, compared to where one comes from in the Paris region. Her: I feel good here." (Couple with three children, Saint-André-de-l'Eure) or again "There's everything here, here it's a small town with industries too, there are HLM districts. I have colleagues who say I live in a fancy neighborhood. It is true that there are many neighbours who work in Paris. My ex-husband works at Poissy (north of Paris conurbation), I have a neighbor who works at La Défense (financial district of Paris). There are not many of us here working in Pacy itself" (Single woman with two children, hospital nurse, Pacy-sur-Eure). These situations of social diversity and relative diversity coupled with the proximity of a "green" environment make, according to the inhabitants, all the value of the periurban installations - at least those which are organized in the quadrant to the west of Paris.

Conclusion

29Although marked by an accentuation of the dynamics of social polarization, the periurban space of the western Ile-de-France remains a privileged place for the settlement and anchoring of the middle classes. According to the households we met, it even seems to function as a place of resources, allowing access to housing, amenities and a more valued social and spatial environment. It is still, for many families, the place of a possible social ascension, even if it goes through different paths depending on whether one considers such or such fraction of the middle class. Between, for some, selected installations, often well controlled on the financial plan, in a sector possessing at the same time landscape quality and good accessibility to the economic centralities of the agglomeration, and for others, residential localizations a little more constrained, sometimes further in distance and/or in time of these same centralities, all seem to offer the possibility of a place to take, of a place where to shape your way of life. The increasingly complex spatial design of these middle-class households, which increasingly value forms of proximity, is combined with the development of a strong local involvement - often through children - and an integration into the associative life of which they renew the themes (culture, hiking, heritage). On the other hand, these middle classes still show an attachment to ways of meeting and confronting their conception of what diversity is - if they feel they master its contours at all. It remains to measure the concrete effects on local action. Beyond that, if these middle classes still dominate the periurban social landscape, what power(s) do they actually have and what is their role in the renewal of the associative and political elites of these areas?

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Annexe

Appendix 1: Coefficients of linear correlation between households in intermediate professions (working and retired) and those in other CSPs 1990 -2006 in the communes of the greater west of Paris* : all households and single family house owners

Type of municipality and year

Working in intermediate occupations with

Retirees in intermediate occupations with

working

retirees

working

retirees

executives

employees

labourers

int.prof.

executives

employees

labourers

executives

employees

labourers

executives

labourers

All households

All municipalities 1990

0,14

0,10

-0,25

-

-0,1

-

-0,26

-

-

-0,14

-

-

(1299) 2006

-

-

-0,24

-

-

-0,11

-0,16

0,10

-

-0,20

-

-

Paris conurbation 1990

-0,14

-

-

-

-0,42

-

-0,21

-

-

-0,34

0,21

-

(154) 2006

-0,24

0,15

-

-0,20

-0,38

-0,18

-

-

-0,40

-0,40

0,37

-

Other urban centres 1990

0,37

-

-0,50

-

-

-

-0,48

0,24

-

-0,35

-

-

(90) 2006

0,35

-0,26

-0,45

-

0,27

-0,27

-0,47

-

-0,36

-0,38

0,35

-

Paris periurban zone

urban municipalities 1990

-

0,31

-0,22

-0,19

-0,26

-0,21

-0,24

-

-0,23

-

-

-

(129) 2006

-0,33

-

-

-

-0,42

-

-

0,32

-0,39

-0,42

0,34

-0,26

rural communities 1990

-

-

-0,27

-

-

-

-0,23

-

-

-

-

-

(472) 2006

-

-

-0,23

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0,15

-

-

Other periurban areas

urban municipalities 1990

-

-

-0,22

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0,36

-

-0,44

(48) 2006

-

-

-0,25

0,30

0,28

-

-0,37

-

-0,31

-

0,32

-

rural communities 1990

-

-

-0,11

-

-0,14

-

-0,23

0,14

-

-0,12

-

-

(406) 2006

-

-

-0,29

-

-

-

-0,17

-

-

-0,14

-

-

Single family house owners

All municipalities 1990

-

-

-0,15

-

-0,17

-0,12

-0,26

-

-

-0,19

-

-

(1299) 2006

-0,16

-

-

-0,12

-0,20

-0,11

-0,12

-

-0,10

-0,20

-

-

Paris conurbation 1990

-0,37

-

0,29

-

-0,63

-0,19

-

-0,25

-0,21

-0,26

0,15

-

(154) 2006

-0,51

0,53

0,38

-0,17

-0,74

-

0,28

-

-0,27

-0,31

-

-

Other urban centres 1990

0,26

-

-0,26

-

-

-0,24

-0,53

-

-

-0,26

0,21

-

(90) 2006

-

-

-0,17

-

-

-0,39

-0,44

-

-

-0,26

0,27

-

Paris periurban zone

urban municipalities 1990

-0,16

0,33

-

-0,22

-0,31

-0,23

-0,24

-

-0,23

-0,20

-

-

(129) 2006

-0,46

-

0,37

-

-0,56

-0,21

-

0,21

-0,25

-0,38

0,25

-0,19

rural communities 1990

-

-

-0,19

-

-0,12

-0,15

-0,25

-

-

-0,11

0,13

-0,11

(472) 2006

-0,20

-

-0,12

-0,13

-0,11

-

-

-

-0,12

-0,13

-

-0,12

Other periurban areas

urban municipalities 1990

-

-

-

-

-

-0,27

-0,41

-

-

-

-

-

(48) 2006

-

-

-

-

-

-

-0,48

-

-

-

-

-

rural communities 1990

-

-

-0,13

-

-0,19

-

-0,26

-

-

-0,15

-

-

(406) 2006

-

-

-0,21

-

-0,11

-

-0,22

-

-

-0,15

-

-

*All the departments of Yvelines and Val-d'Oise, cantons close to Île-de-France in Eure, Eure-et-Loir, Oise and Seine-Maritime.

Sources: Insee, RGP 1990 and 2006 (complementary farms) These are the socio-professional categories of reference persons in households, working or retired. The figures in brackets indicate the number of municipalities on which correlation coefficients have been calculated. "-" : coefficient not significant

Appendix 2: Probability* of living in a detached house in the greater west of Paris according to socio-professional category, age and type of household (1990-2006)

Probability

to live in an owned single family house**

To settle in an owned single family house***

1990

2006

1990

2006

by socio-professional category (reference: executives and senior intell. prof.)

intermediate professions

0,94

0,75

0,99

0,79

employees, service personnel

0,48

0,34

0,53

0,37

labourers

0,56

0,43

0,62

0,45

retired executives

1,00

0,94

1,51

1,24

retirees in intermediate occupations

1,24

1,08

1,42

1,30

retired employees

0,89

0,83

0,94

0,85

retired labourers

0,98

0,75

0,97

0,72

by household type (reference: unattached individuals)

childless couples

2,94

3,53

3,66

4,23

couples 1 child

4,02

4,72

6,26

7,66

couples 2 ore more children

5,39

5,81

10,22

11,07

single-parent families

1,53

1,42

1,84

1,80

by age (reference : 35-44 years)

under 35 years of age

0,37

0,35

0,43

0,45

45-54 years

1,34

1,59

1,11

1,24

55-64 years

1,62

1,88

1,31

1,33

65 years of age or older

1,68

1,97

0,86

0,75

* The conditional probability is measured by the odds ratio, all other things being equal. **All households. *** Households newly settled in the dwelling (in 1990: since 1982; in 2006: during the 5 years preceding the survey).

Sources: RGP 1990 (1/4) and 2006 (full expl.), detail files.

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Notes

1 This work was carried out within the framework of two research conventions for the PUCA: "Secondary poles" in the reorganisation of mobility: maturity and sustainability of periurban spaces? "(2010-2011) ; "Periurban territories: from hybridization to intensity? "» (2012-2014).

2 The ratio of the standard deviation of a variable to its mean.

3 Interquartile interval.

4 For the French by acquisition (6% of households in intermediate occupations, working or retired), the rate of single family house owners was 41% in 2006.

5 Numbers development index:

                   all households      intermediate professions     executives

1990-2006   119                                  120                                      130

1990-2012   124                                  123                                      136

6 The excerpts from interviews quoted concern households in intermediate professions in the private and public sector, working or retired; see the methodological box at the beginning of this article.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1: Location of survey areas
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/32555/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 436k
Titre Map 2: Intermediate occupational households in the western Ile-de-France region
Légende Legend of the 2 maps: share of households whose reference person is active and occupies an intermediate profession (out of all active and retired PR)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/docannexe/image/32555/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 1001k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Claire Aragau, Martine Berger et Lionel Rougé, « The Middle Classes in the west Paris Periurban Fringes », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Espace, Société, Territoire, document 775, mis en ligne le 17 juillet 2019, consulté le 21 août 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/32555 ; DOI : 10.4000/cybergeo.32555

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Auteurs

Claire Aragau

Maître de Conférences, Université Paris Nanterre, UMR 7218 LAVUE, France.
claire.aragau@parisnanterre.fr

Martine Berger

Professeur émérite, Université Paris1, UMR 8586 Prodig, France.
martine.berger95@orange.fr

Lionel Rougé

Maître de Conférences, Université de Caen, UMR 6590 ESO, France.
lionel.rouge@unicaen.fr

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
La revue Cybergeo est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 3.0 non transposé.

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