In a conference call for journalists, staff members from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life discussed the findings in a new report, The Future of the Global Muslim Population. A comprehensive demographic study, the report seeks to provide up-to-date estimates of the number of Muslims around the world in 2010 and to project the growth of the Muslim population from 2010 to 2030.
Population projections for each of the world’s 232 countries and territories included in the report were based on four main factors: fertility rates, life expectancy at birth, emigration and immigration and the number of people in various age groups. The Future of the Global Muslim Population is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation to analyze religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
Listen to the audio.
Alan Cooperman, Associate Director for Research, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Brian J. Grim, Director of Cross-National Data, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Mehtab S. Karim, Senior Fellow and Affiliated Professor, School of Public Policy, George Mason University
Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Navigate This Transcript:
Muslim Population Growing but Slowing
Falling Fertility Rates Mean Older Muslim Populations
U.S. Muslim Population to More Than Double
Europe: Russia’s Muslim Population Largest
Asia-Pacific Region: Pakistan Projected to Surpass Indonesia
Middle East: All But Three Countries Exceed 50 Percent
Sub-Saharan Africa: Dramatic Growth to Continue
Discounting the “Eurabia hypothesis”
Fertility Rate Differentials Between U.S. and European Muslims
Effect of Recent Events in North Africa, Middle East
OPERATOR: Hello and thank you for joining us today for the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious and Public Life’s Q&A session on the findings from the new Pew-Templeton report: The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, will moderate. He is joined by Alan Cooperman, associate director for research, and Brian J. Grim, director of cross-national data and senior researcher.
We will go to the Q&A after brief remarks from our speakers. Please know this call is being recorded, and I’ll be standing by should you need any assistance. It’s now my pleasure to turn the conference over to Mr. Luis Lugo. Please go ahead, sir.
LUIS LUGO, PEW FORUM ON RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Thank you. Good morning to all of you and thank you for joining us today to discuss The Future of the Global Muslim Population, our new comprehensive report on the size, distribution and growth of the worldwide Muslim population.
I’m Luis Lugo, as was mentioned. I’m the director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life here in Washington. The Forum is a project of the Pew Research Center, which is a nonpartisan organization that does not take positions on issues or policy debates.
This report seeks to provide up-to-date estimates of the number of Muslims around the world in 2010 and to project the growth of the Muslim population from 2010 to 2030. Where possible, the report also illustrates trends by providing data from 1990 to 2000.
As you know from looking at the report, there are data aplenty in this report. In fact, our only disappointment is that we were not able to release the report in November in time for the hajj, as we originally intended. It simply took a lot more time to check all these numbers than any of us anticipated. But our hierarchy of values here at the Pew Research Center is clear: getting it right trumps all other considerations.
This study is funded by a very generous grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation as part of what we’re calling the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project. This project is a multiyear research effort undertaken by the Pew Forum to analyze religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
As many of you know, the Pew Forum has focused much of its efforts over the last several years on survey research about the religious attitudes, beliefs and practices of peoples and groups in the United States and around the world. But we began to wonder, what about the size of these religious groups? How are they distributed across the globe? Which major faiths are growing or shrinking? And where are they growing or shrinking?
It was to address these questions that more than three years ago, we embarked on a multiyear project to provide reliable estimates of the current size and growth rates of the world’s major faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, and the unaffiliated, or secular, population.
We started with Islam for a very simple reason: Despite being the second-largest religion in the world, there has been very little solid population data on global Islam. This has helped fuel speculation and controversy. As many of you know, until we began this effort, estimates of the number of Muslims worldwide were all over the lot, ranging from 1 billion to 1.8 billion or more.
Various authors and commentators also have made widely different predictions about future numbers, and in some cases, unfortunately, with very little apparent grounding in fact. It is our hope that our research will contribute more scientific and credible estimates of the number of Muslims living in each country, in each region and around the world. We’ve also tried to make methodologically rigorous and fully transparent projections of future growth.
I should mention that even as we were preparing this report, our staff was busy collecting data on the size of the global Christian population, which we plan to publish later this year. And other reports will follow. As the name suggests, the goal of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project is to do the world.
Now, to discuss the major findings of the report, I am joined by Pew Forum Associate Director for Research Alan Cooperman, who was the lead editor of this report, and Brian Grim, who was the senior researcher and director of cross-national data at the Pew Forum.
Before I turn it over to them to present the key findings, I want to encourage you to take a look at the resources on the Pew Forum’s website. There you will find the full report, including the executive summary, but also a companion online interactive feature that allows you to select a region or one of the 232 countries and territories, as well as the decade, and see the estimated or projected size of the Muslim population in that place and time.
These resources are available at pewforum.org, and, of course, this is the feature article on the main page from which you can then click to all these features. Again, thank you for joining us this morning and, Alan, I will turn it over to you.
ALAN COOPERMAN, PEW FORUM ON RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Thank you, Luis, and thank you everybody for joining this call. I’d like to begin with just a few of the nuts and bolts of how we came up with all these numbers in this very large report and also touch on some of their limitations.
The study is based on secondary data. It is not based on a Pew survey or any single survey. It’s rather based on an analysis of many sources. In fact, more than 1,500 separate sources of information, including national censuses, large-scale health surveys, general population surveys and other studies.
At the back of the report, you’ll find a list of the specific sources we relied on to estimate the number of Muslims in each country. The study looks at a total of 232 countries and territories because those are the geographic units for which the United Nations Population Division provides general population estimates.
The bulk of the world’s Muslim population, about 75 percent, lives in Muslim-majority countries, and for those countries, we generally have solid data from censuses and other large-scale surveys on population sizes, fertility rates and other key information we needed for this study. We also generally have solid data on Muslims who live in countries where they make up substantial minorities, such as India, which has the third-largest Muslim population in the world. The data on Muslims is, generally speaking, weaker in countries where they make up very small portions of the general population.
We’ve tried to be extremely clear about the data and the assumptions that underlie our estimates and projections for these countries, where in some cases the role of emigration or immigration looms large. Forecasting future migration rates is particularly difficult. We do think that the assumptions we’ve made about migration rates are reasonable and in some cases conservative.
We’ve also looked at what would happen if we changed the assumptions, particularly in regard not only to migration, but also to fertility rates. We generated three sets of projections following a high, a medium and a low scenario, though for the most part, in the main body of the report, we’ve presented the medium scenario, considering it to be the most likely.
One way I suppose, though it would not be a very good way, a very scientific way, of forecasting population growth, would be to look at what the size of a population was, say, 10 years ago, look at what it is today and project that it will continue to grow forever at that same rate. I want to emphasize we have not — not — done that kind of linear extrapolation.
On the contrary, the projections in this report follow what is known as the cohort-component method, which is widely used by demographers around the world. It begins with a baseline population divided into groups, or cohorts, by age and sex. We factor in the fertility rates for women in each age group, and each cohort is projected into the future by adding likely gains over time — that is, new births and new immigrants — and by subtracting from each cohort over time the likely losses from death and emigration. We collaborated on some of the most complex of these projections with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, which is one of the leading demographic research institutes in Europe, and indeed in the world.
The world’s Muslim population is growing, but it’s not runaway growth. On the contrary, it is likely to grow at a slower pace in the next 20 years than it did in the previous 20.
These are, if I can be excused for saying so, state-of-the-art projections. But we all know that lots of things — political decisions, economic cycles, medical and scientific advances, wars, famines and so on — can change demographic trends in unforeseen ways, which is why this report adheres to a fairly modest timeframe and tries to look just 20 years down the road.
That’s a quick overview of how we did it. So what did we find? If I had to sum it up in a single phrase, I’d say growing but slowing. Let me repeat that — growing but slowing. The world’s Muslim population is growing, but it’s not runaway growth. On the contrary, it is likely to grow at a slower pace in the next 20 years than it did in the previous 20.
Let’s start with the growth side of this equation and look at it from the broadest global perspective. The world’s Muslim population is growing both in absolute numbers and in relative terms as a share of all the people in the world. The number of Muslims is expected to increase by about 35 percent in the next two decades, rising in absolute numbers from 1.6 billion to about 2.2 billion people by 2030.
By way of comparison, the rest of the world’s population is expected to increase by about 16 percent during the same period, rising from nearly 5.3 billion to about 6.1 billion people. So if current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4 percent of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion people in the year 2030. That’s an increase of 3 percentage points from 23.4 percent of the 2010 estimated world population of 6.9 billion people.
If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4 percent of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion people in the year 2030.
In other words, Muslims are projected to go from a little less than a quarter to a little more than a quarter of all the people in the world over the next 20 years. Still another way of looking at these numbers is the global Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population, an average annual rate for Muslims of 1.5 percent compared with seven-tenths of a percent, 0.7 percent, for all others combined.
Several factors account for the faster growth among Muslims, including higher fertility rates and the relative youthfulness of the global Muslim population, by which I mean that a larger share of the Muslim population is or soon will enter the prime childbearing years.
Now, let’s look at the other side of the equation, the slowing pace of the growth. From 1990 to 2010, the global Muslim population increased at an average annual rate of 2.2 percent. Over the next 20 years, as I said, that rate of growth is projected to average out at 1.5 percent per year. This declining rate of growth is due primarily to falling fertility rates in many Muslim-majority countries. The number of children per woman has been dropping in such countries as Indonesia and Bangladesh as more women get a secondary education, living standards rise and people move from rural areas to cities and towns.
I think, personally, I find one of the most telling graphs in this entire report to be in the fertility section. I hope you’ll take a look at it. It shows the converging lines as the fertility rates in Muslim-majority countries come down closer and closer to the rates in other countries, both in less-developed regions of the world and in more-developed regions of the world.
These trends have many potential ramifications. In the short time I have to speak to you, I just want to touch on one that I find particularly interesting. The falling fertility rates over time will produce significant changes in the age structure of Muslim populations.
We can already see in the numbers in this report that the Muslim “youth bulge” — and you have to imagine quotation marks around that phrase, “youth bulge” — that is, the high proportion of teenagers and young adults in many Muslim-majority countries, peaked around the year 2000 and is now declining. So over the next 20 years, a growing slice of the population in Muslim-majority countries as a whole will be comprised of people in middle age. And the number of people over the age of 60 in these countries as a whole is likely to nearly double, from 7 percent to 12 percent of the population.
That’s a quick global overview. Now I’ll turn the conference call over to Brian Grim, one of the principal authors of this report, to discuss some of the regional findings, and I’ll look forward to your questions at the end.
BRIAN GRIM, PEW FORUM ON RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Good morning. I’d like to start with some comments on the Americas and then move to different regions of the world. With the Americas and Europe, these two regions of the world account for only about 3 percent of the total Muslim population. Being in the United States, it’s of interest to our audiences what the population of Muslims is like in the U.S. and what it’s projected to be like in the years to come.
The number of Muslims — that includes adults and children in the United States — is projected to more than double, rising from about 2.6 million, or about 0.8 percent of the total U.S. population, in 2010 to 6.2 million, or 1.7 percent, in 2030, in large part because of immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims, making Muslims in the United States in 2030 as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the U.S. today.
Indeed, the growth of the Muslim population in the U.S. will make the U.S. Muslim population larger than any Muslim population in Europe aside from France or Russia in 2030. And because the growth of the U.S. population is primarily driven by new immigration, a large number of the Muslim population today are older than they would be in the typical population. Right now, only about 13 percent of Muslims in the U.S. are in the 0-to-14 age group.
The growth of the Muslim population in the U.S. will make the U.S. Muslim population larger than any Muslim population in Europe aside from France or Russia in 2030.
But by 2030, many of these immigrants who are coming in are expected to start families. If current trends continue, the number of Muslims under age 15 will more than triple from fewer than 500,000 today to about 1.8 million in 2030. Likewise, the number of Muslim children ages 0-to-4 living in the U.S. is expected to increase from fewer than 200,000 in 2010 to more than 650,000 in 2030.
Again, about two-thirds of Muslims living in the U.S. today are first-generation immigrants, or they were born in another country, while slightly more than a third were born in the U.S. By 2030, however, we are projecting that more than four-in-ten Muslims in the U.S., about 45 percent, are expected to be native-born. Currently the top countries of origin for Muslim immigrants in the U.S. in 2009 were Pakistan and Bangladesh, and we expect them to remain the top countries of origin for Muslim immigrants in the years to come.
Looking to our neighbor to the north, in Canada similar dynamics are in operation, where the Muslim population is expected to nearly triple in the next 20 years, from a bit less than a million Muslims in 2010 to nearly 2.7 million in 2030. They are expected to make up about 6.6 percent of Canada’s total population, which is a larger share than in the United States, up from 2.8 percent today. In the Americas, Argentina is expected to have the third-largest Muslim population after the U.S. and Canada. Currently, Argentina, with about 1 million Muslims, is now in second place.
The situation for Muslim populations in Europe is much more diverse than in the United States. And in Europe there are some countries that have had Muslim populations for centuries, where their growth is not primarily driven by new immigrants but by traditional populations that have been there for centuries, such as in Russia, Kosovo and Albania — Kosovo and Albania being the two Muslim-majority countries in Europe. The Muslim share of Europe’s total population is expected to grow by nearly a third from about 44 million, or 6 percent, in 2010 to 58.2 million, or about 8 percent, in 2030.
In Europe, Muslims are projected to make up more than 10 percent of the total population in 10 countries. For Kosovo and Albania, which I mentioned, about 93.5 percent and 83.2 percent of their population is projected to be Muslim. Bosnia-Herzegovina, about 43 percent; the Republic of Macedonia, 40 percent; Montenegro, about 22 percent; Bulgaria, about 16 percent; Russia, about 14 percent; Georgia, about 12 percent; France and Belgium, both a little bit over 10 percent.
Russia will have the largest Muslim population in Europe in absolute numbers in 2030, as it does today. Its Muslim population is expected to rise from about 16.4 million to 18.6 million in 2030. The growth rate for the Muslim population in Russia is projected to be about 0.6 annually, lower than the overall growth rate of Muslims around the world. But in contrast, Russia’s non-Muslim population is expected to shrink over the next 20 years by about 0.6 percent annually.
Russia will have the largest Muslim population in Europe in absolute numbers in 2030, as it does today.
That’s looking at a country where Muslims have been living for many centuries. In some of the Western European countries, Muslims are newer populations and much of this is driven by immigration. For instance, in 2010 France had an expected influx of about 66,000 Muslim immigrants, primarily from North Africa. Muslims comprised about two-thirds of all new immigrants in France in the past year.
Spain was expected to see a net gain of about 70,000 Muslim immigrants. But they account for a smaller portion of immigrants to Spain: only about 13 percent. And the U.K.’s net inflow of Muslim immigrants in the past year was about 64,000 and is forecasted to be nearly as large as France’s. So more than about a quarter of all new immigrants to the U.K. in 2010 are estimated to be Muslim.
The greatest increases in proportional terms are in the area traditionally thought of as Western Europe. Muslims will be approaching near double-digit percentages of the population in several countries, including the United Kingdom, where Muslims today make up about 4.6 percent of the population but are expected to grow to more than 8 percent of the population in 2030. In Norway, Muslims are projected to reach 6.5 percent of the population in 2030, up from 3 percent today. In Germany, they’ll reach 7 percent by our projections, up from 5 percent today; in Austria, more than 9 percent, up from less than 6 percent today, and in France, 10 percent, up from about 7.5 percent today.
The part of the world with the largest Muslim population is the Asia-Pacific region. And like Europe, Asia has great contrasts in the Muslim population. For instance, the country with the largest Muslim-majority population is projected to be Pakistan in 2030. But Asia also has the country with the largest Muslim-minority population, which is India, which is expected to grow to nearly 16 percent of the population by 2030.
Among the fastest-growing Muslim populations in the Asia-Pacific region are New Zealand and Australia, both driven by the influx of new immigrants, but also Afghanistan, which is driven primarily through higher-than-average fertility rates for Muslims than the rest of the world. In fact, the highest fertility level is in Afghanistan, with about 6.3 children per woman in 2010 to 2015, as an estimate. The lowest fertility level among Muslim-majority countries is in Iran, also in the Asia region.
Nearly three-in-ten people in Asia-Pacific are expected to be Muslim — 27 percent — in 2030, up from less than 25 percent today. Muslims make up only about 2 percent of the population in China, but because China’s population is so large, its Muslim population is expected to be the 19th largest in the world in 2030: roughly a bit less than 30 million Muslims.
The next region of the world I’d like to highlight a few findings from is the Middle East and North Africa. This is the region of the world that usually comes to mind when people think of Muslim populations, but it only has about 20 percent of the world’s Muslim population. So why does it come to mind when you think of Muslims? Generally, it’s because of the high concentration of Muslims living in the Middle East.
Indeed, the Middle East will continue to have the highest percentage of Muslim-majority countries. Of the 20 countries and territories in this region, all but Israel are projected to be at least 50 percent Muslim in 2030, and 17 are expected to have populations that are more than 75 percent in 2030, with Israel, Lebanon and Sudan (as currently demarcated) being the only exceptions.
The largest growth in percentage terms, both in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the world, is Israel’s Muslim population.
The largest growth in percentage terms, both in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the world, is Israel’s Muslim population. It’s expected to make up 23 percent of Israel in 2030, up from 17.7 percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 1990. During the last 20 years, the Muslim population in Israel has more than doubled, growing from about 0.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 million in 2010. Indeed, this is, again, the largest percentage point increase of any country that we’ve studied.
Egypt, Algeria and Morocco currently have the largest Muslim populations in absolute numbers in the Middle East and North Africa. However, by 2030, Iraq is expected to have the second-largest Muslim population in the region, exceeded only by Egypt, and this is largely because Iraq has a higher fertility rate than Algeria or Morocco.
Finally I’d like to mention a few notes on sub-Saharan Africa. This is the region of the world where the growth of the Muslim population has been dramatic, and we expect it to continue to be dramatic. In 2010, today, about 15 percent of Muslims live in sub-Saharan Africa. But by 2030, we’re expecting that to be about 17.6 percent of all Muslims, so more than a 2.5 percent gain in terms of their share of where Muslims live in the world.
This growth is primarily driven by higher fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa. But one of the ironic findings is that it’s not just the Muslim populations that are growing but also the total population. So we’re not expecting to see Muslims have a larger share of sub-Saharan Africa because other populations are growing as well. So today we have them at about 30 percent of sub-Saharan Africa overall and in 2030 about 31 percent.
Finally, a note on Nigeria, where different surveys indicate that the Muslim and Christian populations are about equal size: Our analysis of Nigeria does show that the Muslim population has a slightly higher fertility rate than other populations, including the Christian population, and therefore we expect Nigeria to have a slight Muslim majority by 2030 of just over 51 percent.
Two final notes: Our study also looked at conversion as a possible factor in the growth of the Muslim population, and reviewing the sources available and a large number of surveys, our conclusion was that there was no evidence that most of the growth that we’re looking at is being driven by conversion. Rather, it’s being driven by standard population growth, higher fertility levels, in countries.
I think I’ll stop there and we’ll leave it open for questions. Thank you.
LUGO: Thank you, Brian, and thank you, Alan. After all these figures were thrown at you, you will understand why we affectionately refer to ourselves as “Data R Us” here at the Pew Research Center. So it’s now your time to ask your questions, make your comments, and we want to hear from you. I think the lines are open.
SONIA JANIKOVE, RADIO DEUTSCHE WELLE: We didn’t hear much about Turkey. Could you expand on that?
GRIM: Yes. Turkey, like some other Muslim-majority countries in North Africa, entered into what’s called the demographic transition phase earlier than some other Muslim-majority countries. So fertility rates in Turkey are among the lowest in Muslim-majority countries, and therefore the growth of the Muslim population in Turkey is expected to be more modest than in some other countries.
COOPERMAN: I could just say that specifically you’ll find some figures on this in the report. Turkey’s fertility rate at present, for 2010 to 2015, is estimated at about 2.1 children per woman. That’s right around, probably, the replacement rate — the bare minimum needed to replenish a population, absent immigration. And it’s projected to decline to 1.9, which would be below the replacement rate.
JEROME SOCOLOVSKY, VOICE OF AMERICA: My question is, how did you define Muslim identity for this survey and whether you took into account trends in secularization or intermarriage or the offspring of mixed marriages, especially in countries where Muslims are a minority.
LUGO: Before you answer, Alan, let me introduce another member of our team who has just arrived: Dr. Mehtab Karim, who was a visiting senior research fellow with us from 2008 to 2010. He came to us from the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was a professor of demography. He is now a distinguished senior fellow and affiliated professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University here in Washington.
Mehtab fought the elements to get back from Pakistan last night and then had to fight the elements this morning here in Washington, an even bigger task, to get to the office. A few inches of snow here just throws us into a loop. So Mehtab, it’s great to have you.
MEHTAB KARIM, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much.
COOPERMAN: Jerome Socolovsky, great question; thank you. The basic metric for us for Muslims as for all other religious groups is self-identification. So in principle, what we set out to do is to include in this study, in these numbers, anybody who would identify themselves as a Muslim. That would include those who might be secular, if you will, Muslims. There’s no effort here to divide out or separate those who are more-practicing from less-practicing and indeed no way for us in these projections to come up with any figure on religiosity.
Separately, quite apart from this study, I should mention we have done surveys and are continuing to do surveys in which we ask religious groups around the world about their beliefs and practices, including surveys that ask this of Muslims. So we do have data on religious practices, degree of observance, etc., of Muslims in quite a number of countries. But we don’t have any way to project those into the future.
LUGO: Let me just add on that question that as we’re collecting this data, one of the issues we want to try to tackle, after we finish projecting the growth of these various groups, is precisely the religiosity question from the most religious across religious traditions to the least religious folks, secular folks in society. If we are able to get all that data, maybe the next phase of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, in terms of projects, will be projecting the future of the world in terms of degree of religiosity across religious traditions. But that is a ways down the road at this point, but certainly part of our ambitious agenda under this project.
GRIM: I’ll add one more note on the identification of Muslims. We did take it as whether or not the people would identify themselves as Muslim, not whether particular religious authorities would agree that they’re orthodox Muslim or considered “within the fold.” So groups like Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, which the government does not count as Muslims but they themselves identify as Muslims, we would count as Muslims.
COOPERMAN: Jerome, you asked about intermarriage. So, if in the sources we used — in a census, a survey — someone identified themselves or is counted in that as Muslim, we would count them. If they’ve intermarried and/or fallen away in some way and they don’t identify as Muslim, then we don’t count them. We, in that sense, are at the mercy of secondary sources, as I mentioned, and the secondary sources do vary in the way that they count people, the way they ask these questions. We’ve done the best we can to reconcile them.
SOCOLOVSKY: Thanks for all your answers.
TOM HENEGHAN, THOMSON REUTERS: One of the big disputes about the Muslim population in recent years has been what’s called the “Eurabia hypothesis,” that the Muslim population will grow so quickly in Europe, mostly through birth and migration, that it will become dominant within a few decades. What do these results say about that thesis?
GRIM: I can say a few things. We did not do these projections beyond 2030, so we can’t really speak authoritatively beyond that level. But if you just look at the chart in the report, you can see that by our estimates the Muslim population in Europe has gone from 4.1 percent in 1990 to 5.1 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2010, and then 7 and 8 percent.
So across the next 20 years, we’re only seeing a 2 percent rise in the total share of Europe that is Muslim, and again, we’re projecting that the growth rate is slowing, so this rise is very, very modest. It’s a relatively small share of the overall population in Europe. If we were to project that forward, which we haven’t done, it would take many, many years, and there’s no real scenario that we’ve looked at that this “Eurabia” scenario would come to be.
Now, I can say one or two explanatory comments on that. It’s that the non-Muslim population of Europe is also part of the equation, that the non-Muslim population is generally in decline, that there’s a shrinking population, whereas the Muslim population is still in a period of growth. So the disparity between the two, when you look at one population and it’s growing and they’re generally having more children and families, and the existing populations fall, that distance may feel larger than it actually is.
The other factor in Europe is that many of the Muslim communities are concentrated in certain cities. They’ve become a very visible minority, and it may feel that they’re more populous than they may actually be.
Now, having said that, there’s still a growth going on, and once you reach, say, 10 percent of population, that’s a much larger share than a few percent of the population. So I think the growth that we’re seeing, these are populations that will be substantial but not — in our projections, we’re not anticipating a majority.
COOPERMAN: Yeah. It’s also the case, of course, as you alluded to, Brian, that certain countries are growing at a faster rate than the European population as a whole. The other thing I’d say, and you’ll see that we’ve given the projections in a table for selected countries, but these are the kinds of countries, I think, that you may be asking about. If you run your eye down the percentages, you’ll see that they’re going from 3, 4, 5 percent to 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 percent. Those are, as we’ve said, substantial increases, but they are very far from the “Eurabia,” scenario of runaway growth. As I said at the beginning, we do not see either worldwide or in Europe runaway growth. The growth rates are actually slowing, and that’s conveyed, I think, pretty clearly by the graph on Europe.
KARIM: Just a quick comment on the growth of the Muslim population in Europe. What we have seen from our study is that once they start living in Europe — they migrate from many countries, particularly in North Africa — within a generation, the fertility rate goes down. I think whatever growth rate is coming up is mainly due to immigration. Once immigration in these countries stops, the growth rate would come down, and that’s what our projections are.
MEREDITH HEAGNEY, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: A question about the U.S. specifically. I’m curious about how the Muslim population will compare to other religious groups in the U.S. in 2030. The report says that we’ll have roughly the same number of Muslims as we have currently of Jews and Episcopalians. But I’m wondering how those minority groups will stack up in 2030.
COOPERMAN: We have phrased that cautiously and carefully because we’ve not done the projections for the other religious groups. So the comparison we’ve made, as you correctly noted, is between what percentage we expect Muslims to comprise in 2030 with roughly what the percentages of Jews and, say, Episcopalians are today.
There are other religious groups in and around that same ballpark, by the way. Mormons, also, for example, represent about 2 percent of the U.S. population. I’m sure if you follow religion, you’re aware that there’s been a lot written and said about the decline of mainline churches in the United States. Well, I don’t know what the growth rate of Episcopalians through birth rates is, but I would not foresee — though we haven’t done it — dramatic increases.
Similarly, we have a sense, even though we haven’t done the projections with Jews: probably not dramatic increases in numbers. There isn’t a lot of immigration of Jews to the United States today, for example, which drove Jewish numbers in the United States in prior decades, in the last century. So roughly speaking, I see rough parity in 2030. Something like 2 percent of the population is what a number of these religious groups might be.
LUGO: And as Alan emphasized, Meredith, we haven’t done the projections for the other groups yet. That’s on our to-do list. We really are cutting our teeth on this with global Islam. But the next item of business, in fact, is to make projections for every group so that we can see by 2030 how the religious world map is going to look and also, of course, for countries like the United States. If I were just to add a footnote to that, in many of these countries conversion can almost be held constant in terms of the net impact.
The United States is, as we have documented in the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, a very competitive religious marketplace. So conversions and the net impact of conversions tend to play a role here that may be outsized in terms of its impact compared with other countries. But that’s something that, again, we need to explore in a more comparative perspective going forward.
XAVIER VILA, CATALUNYA RADIO: I was wondering about the data that you released about Spain and the fact that women in that particular country are well underrepresented compared with the male population. You were talking about 190 Muslim men for every 100 Muslim women. I would like to know if you think that that trend is going to change in these next 20 years and why this may have happened. Thank you.
GRIM: I think the immigrant population in Spain is somewhat unique because Spain almost has a border, you could say, with Morocco. So there’s a lot of movement, easy movement, from Morocco into Spain. It’s very close by, and therefore, many of the immigrants who come might be males who are in search of work, hoping to maybe find some permanent employment but may be coming on a more temporary basis. And it’s easy to come back and forth between Morocco and Spain. So because of that type of transportation and environment, that’s why I believe we’re finding more Muslim males than females coming into Spain.
In terms of the prospects for the future, assuming that some of these men who have come now in search of employment find employment and can bring their families, then we’d see the gender ratio balancing out, or maybe some of the men who’ve come temporarily will return back to Morocco or countries that they’ve come from. So as far as the prospects for the future, we see the ratio balancing out rather than being the permanent state of affairs.
OMAR SACIRBEY, RELIGION NEWS SERVICE: Thanks for your time on the report. My questions regard fertility rates, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. If I heard you correctly, I think you mentioned that U.S. Muslims have a higher fertility rate than the average rate in the U.S., and I wondered if you could just give us a few more numbers on that — just to be more specific.
And also, how the fertility rate of U.S. Muslims compares with that of Muslims in Europe and how that’s going to change over that next 20 years, if that will drop as we get into the first and second generations starting families. Thank you.
LUGO: Fertility rate differentials between the U.S. and European Muslims. And if you, Alan and Brian, can fold into that something about some of those factors that are so closely related to fertility rates, including socioeconomic variables, where the U.S. Muslim community is quite middle class by comparison to European Muslim populations.
GRIM: I’ll start. Alan can add some and maybe Mehtab Karim would also add some in. If you look at the report, we provide a description of how we came up with the estimate of Muslim fertility in the United States. There is no one place you can go and find the statistics on the fertility of Muslims. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t collect data that would allow us to calculate that directly. So instead, we had to approach it by looking at the countries of origin of Muslims. That would include about 65 percent of Muslims born in another country and then about 35 percent born in the United States.
We discuss in depth how we went about these calculations and came up with an overall rate of about 2.5 births per woman. We can talk about that in more depth if you would like. In comparison to rates among Muslims in Europe, we have a chart that looks at the fertility rates for Muslims compared with the non-Muslim population in Europe.
The rate that we have for the U.S. is similar to Muslims in some countries like Sweden, which has 2.5, and Switzerland. It’s lower than fertility rates in some countries like Norway and Ireland. It’s a bit above average in those countries, but if you look at some of the countries in Europe, Muslim fertility rates are already low.
In Albania, it’s already below replacement level. Albania, again, is a Muslim-majority country. Kosovo is still a bit above average, but some others — Italy has an estimated 1.9 fertility rate for Muslims, and that’s largely because many of the Muslims in Italy have come from Albania. So those rates are here. Then if you look at Bosnia-Herzegovina, their rate is extremely low, even lower than the average for overall Europe.
So Muslim fertility rates are — there’s wide variation in them. We’re not seeing anything like the fertility rate of Afghanistan, which is above 6. So they tend to be a bit higher. Then as Mehtab Karim already said, we’re projecting that their patterns of fertility will be more assimilated to the European pattern. That’s largely because as you move to a new country, you have to fit in. You have to educate your children; you have to get jobs and support yourself. These conditions in Europe tend to promote a smaller family than conditions in Afghanistan or in some country such as that.
LUGO: Mehtab, I want you to jump in. I don’t know if this is the technical demographic term, but it seems to me that convergence towards the mean is what you’re describing here.
KARIM: Just one quick comment on U.S. fertility for Muslims. Most of the Muslims in the U.S., as Brian mentioned, are recent immigrants so they are younger. And since they are younger, therefore currently their fertility rates are high. It’s 2.5. That’s the expected number of — that’s a technical term. Fertility rate means the average number of children a woman is going to have by the time she reaches the end of her reproductive period. That’s about 50 years of age. So since they are young, that’s why the rates are high. Now, it’s likely that by the time they have spent about 20 years in the U.S., that rate may not persist, and it could go down and converge to the same rate as in the U.S. because they are more middle class than the Muslims in Europe.
COOPERMAN: Just one slight clarification. I didn’t want you to take away the impression that when we look at fertility rates among Muslim immigrants to the United States, we somehow or other assume they’re the same as they were in their country of origin. That’s not what Brian meant to say.
What he meant to say is that we look at the Muslim immigrants by their country of origin based on surveys so that we have some sense of what the fertility rates are within those various immigrant groups, say, Pakistanis versus, say, Nigerians. We then, based again on survey data, weight those percentages — those fertility rates — to come up with a total.
So overall, the fertility rate for Muslim immigrants in the United States is estimated at 2.6 children per woman and the fertility rate we estimate for U.S.-born Muslims is 2.2 children per woman. Since the Muslim immigrants represent, roughly speaking, two-thirds of all Muslims in the United States, we also, again, weight that to come up with an overall estimate of about 2.5 children per U.S. Muslim woman. However, again, all this is explained as best we can in the report.
GRIM: Yeah and thank you, Alan, for that clarification. There’s a footnote that provides the sources in the survey that Alan was referring to. It’s actually a very large survey done by the Census Bureau, the American Community Survey. That has data by the nationality of immigrants in the U.S., and as Alan said, it’s not based on their fertility in their home country, but the immigrant fertility in the U.S.
ELIZABETH WHITMAN, INTER PRESS SERVICE: I was wondering if you thought that these numbers are going to be affected by the recent instability that seems to be spreading across North Africa and the Middle East. And if the numbers are going to be affected, how are they going to be affected?
LUGO: Good question. This is a question regarding the political instability that seems to be spreading in North Africa and the Middle East. The question is, is that going to be a push factor in terms of people migrating out of those areas.
GRIM: I’ll take an initial stab. One of the most difficult things — and Alan mentioned this at the beginning — to anticipate is migration. These political events can have unforeseen consequences on people’s desires to live in a country or move from a country. They can affect minority groups, sometimes in larger ways than majority groups. So these things are very difficult to model and build into the projections, episodic events — wars or famines or economic crisis. These could affect our projections.
One note that I could make on Tunisia is that it’s very interesting that Tunisia has low fertility, tends to have an older age structure than other Muslim-majority countries. In fact, all of North Africa, with a bit of an exception of Egypt, has already gone through the demographic transition where they’re having lower fertility rates, higher education for women.
So some of the things that Alan was mentioning at the beginning about the changing age structure, having an older age structure, more people in middle age. Some of the news reports — and we can’t really speak to that — but some of the news reports have mentioned that the Tunisia uprising was more of a middle class — so sort of middle-age issues that were coming to the fore.
LUGO: This is purely a hypothesis. You know, you’re absolutely right. There is a push factor anytime there is instability. But as we know, in Europe there’s also a pushback factor at this point with respect to immigrants, and given the economic situation, Europe is not as attractive as it once was for immigrants. So that may argue for lateral migration to neighboring countries as opposed to going to Europe and elsewhere. But that’s simply a hypothesis on my part, Elizabeth. That will need to be tested by the facts on the ground.
JOHN SMITH, READING EAGLE: I’m wondering what each of you individually found was the biggest surprise when you did this survey.
LUGO: My biggest surprise is we got it done — (laughter) — given the ambitiousness of this effort. But I will let the three principal people address that question in turn. So who wants to go first? Alan, why don’t you —
COOPERMAN: Sure. Well, I’ll tell you, there are a lot of things that — I’m not a specialist and don’t have a background in international demographic study, so I found a lot of things very interesting. It wasn’t a surprise to me, of course, that the global Muslim population is growing because the population of the entire world is growing. It was very interesting to me to see at a global level that the Muslim population is growing faster than the general population. So it’s increasing, as I said at the beginning, in relative as well as in absolute terms. I also was particularly struck with the changes in age structure.
Again, I’ll go way beyond my area of expertise and note that there have been some studies by sociologists and political scientists that pay a lot of attention to issues of the ratio, for example, of younger men to older men in societies and what that means for the restiveness of the society. And again, that’s totally outside the scope of this report, but it’s the kind of thing that to me is very interesting.
I also was very intrigued by the numbers, of course, in the United States — our projections, which have a lot to do, not just with fertility rates, but with the age structure of the Muslim population in the United States, the high percentage of young people, people who are in or soon will enter the prime childbearing years and what that might well mean for the years to come.
LUGO: Mehtab, you’re one of the deans of the study of Muslim demographics. You’ve been at it for many years. I don’t know if anything would surprise you at this point, but if anything did in these findings, please weigh in.
KARIM: Well, thank you, Luis. As you were told, I’ve been working on this topic for the last 10 years. The first surprise which came to me was about 10 years back, when I figured out that as opposed to the literature review in the Western journals, fertility in Muslim countries had started declining somewhere in the late 1990s.
I think the pace I have seen now, mostly at the beginning of this century, has been much faster. What you can figure out from the graphs we have shown, I think the Muslim population growth rate, or particularly the fertility rate, is fast catching up with other developing countries. And there are certain leaders. For example, Iran, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey. These are the four major countries that almost — I would say 40 percent of the Muslim population — their decline has really caught up very fast within the region. So that was not a surprise, but I think it would be a surprise to many other people.
The other thing that is very interesting, which we have shown several times or written it, is that the growth rate also accounts for the decline or the increase in mortality, and Muslim mortality has been declining faster than among other religions, particularly in Third World countries. And that’s why the growth rate has not been as fast as it should have been.
If mortality had been as high as in the past among Muslims, perhaps, I think, the growth rate would have decreased further. So that is one surprise because earlier I did work on mortality issues, and that is one surprise I had. I think there were many, many other surprises, and you are the people who should point out what those are.
As a researcher, I would say that is the beginning of the journey. We are somewhere in the middle of the journey. As we proceed further, one major issue which I’m pursuing at the moment is the youth population, which Alan mentioned. That’s one of the concerns I think many of us should have because there are many, many — almost 30 percent of the population of the Muslim world are youths. They need to be trained; they need to be pursued or whatever. I think that should be one of the major concerns of many in the Muslim world and the Western world. Thank you very much.
LUGO: Thank you, Mehtab. Brian, if you could wrap it up for us.
GRIM: I’ll say one topic that Mehtab and I — we started working on this project two or three years ago. I don’t know — many years in the making. And something that we talked about all along the way was the diversity there is among Muslim populations, that you can’t speak generally, just this is what a Muslim is like.
The populations are different from country to country, and it’s all driven by the local circumstances. I’ll just point out one chart that demonstrates that a bit. There’s a chart showing the 10 countries with the highest GDP per capita. Among those 10 countries are three Muslim-majority countries — Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei. And then among the 10 countries globally with the lowest GDP are also three Muslim-majority countries — Somalia, Niger and Afghanistan.
You can see that the diversity of the Muslim world, or if you want to think of it as the Muslim-majority countries, is demonstrated in these two charts. And then there’s a direct connection between the level of development as indicated by the per capita GDP and demographic factors. So you can see that Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei all have relatively low fertility rates, whereas Somalia, Niger and Afghanistan all have high fertility rates. So rather than it being something driven by Islam, per se, the local situation — poverty, development, income, all of these things — affect the situation in countries. Thank you.
LUGO: Thank you, Brian. And again, our thanks to our sponsors, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, for funding this very ambitious initiative. Our thanks to you for participating in this conference call. We are here to be of help to you so don’t let the end of the conference call be the end of our communication with you. If you have any questions, please contact us, and we’d be delighted to walk you through and try to explain any of these figures. Thank you very much.
This written transcript has been edited by Amy Stern for clarity,
grammar and accuracy.
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