In 1850 Paris had approximately 600,000 inhabitants. It then grew rapidly as industrial expansion attracted a constant stream of people from the provinces. By 1870 the population had surpassed 1,000,000, and by 1931 the conurbation contained some 5,000,000 people, more than half of them living in the city of Paris, the administrative city within the old gates. After World War II this growth continued, and Greater Paris by the turn of the 21st century had close to 10,000,000 inhabitants. The population of the city of Paris, however, steadily declined, from a peak of about 2,900,000 in 1931 to roughly 2,100,000 in 1999, so that about four out of five Parisians were suburbanites.
The shift took place in part because massive rehousing reduced the city’s high density, though it remained well above the northern European average. Many families moved out to newer and more spacious homes in the smaller towns around the capital, leaving the city of Paris with an aging, curiously solitary population, with almost half of the households consisting of just one person. Yet within the first few years of the 21st century, the city’s population slowly began to increase. With birth rates rising and older persons tending to retire outside the capital region, the Parisian population also grew younger.
Paris-born Parisians are outnumbered by those born outside the city, many of whom keep their provincial or international ties. Hence, many shops, restaurants, and neighbourhoods have a French regional or international flavour. While most nonnative Parisians are French, more than one-tenth of the population is foreign-born. About a third of the city’s foreign residents are from European Union member countries, but the largest immigrant groups are peoples of African origin—particularly Muslim Arabs from the North African countries of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. In general, families of North African origin cluster in the poorer northern quarters or, increasingly, in the peripheral housing developments surrounding the capital; in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, their presence has given rise to racial and religious tensions and conflicts.
The sizable black population is made up of immigrants from the French overseas departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe as well as from West and Central African countries such as Senegal, Mali, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many of these immigrants inhabit the northeastern portions of Paris, as do people of Chinese and Turkish origin. Immigrant groups from Southeast Asia are concentrated in southeastern Paris. Most of the population is nominally Roman Catholic, though only a small percentage attend Mass regularly. Muslims are an important presence in the city, as evidenced by its dozens of mosques, including the Grande Mosquée de Paris (1922–26) in the 5th arrondissement. The Jewish community is centred on the rue des Rosiers quarter of the Marais neighbourhood, where there are numerous synagogues, kosher stores, and Hebrew bookshops. "Lecce" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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