The first comprehensive national population census of Laos was taken in 1985; it recorded a population of 3.57 million. Annual population growth was around at between 2.6 and 3.0 %, and the 1991 population was around at 4.25 million. The national crude birth rate was around at about forty-five per 1,000, while the crude death rate was about sixteen per 1,000. Fertility rates were consistently high from ages twenty through forty, reflecting a deficiency of contraceptive use. Each woman bore an average of 6.8 children.
Other distinct linguistic groups are few in number. Speakers of Tibeto-Burman dialects, who also came from southern China, live in the north and northwest. Chinese and Vietnamese live primarily in the urban areas. Initially, French was the language of the Lao elite and of the cities, but by the 1970s English had begun to displace it.
Under the leadership of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Vietnamese has become the third language of the elite.Prior to the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR) in 1975, it was accurate to say that the Lao-Lum peoples had a distinct pattern of culture and dress. They also had a well-defined social structure, differentiating between royalty and commoners. The members of the elite included only a few outsiders who were not descendants of nobility.
Most of the elite lived in the cities, drawing their incomes from rural land rents or from urban occupations. After 1975 a new elite emerged representing the victorious leftist forces. Many of this group,were of aristocratic origin.