Spotlight on Nigeria
Expected Growth of Nigeria’s Muslim Population
The Muslim population in Nigeria is projected to increase by more than 50% in the next 20 years, from about 76 million in 2010 to about 117 million in 2030. If current trends continue, Nigeria will have a slight Muslim majority by 2030. According to the projections in this report, Muslims are expected to make up 51.5% of the population in 2030, up from 47.9% in 2010.1
The projected increase in Nigeria’s Muslim population is primarily due to high fertility rates. Although the rates vary considerably throughout the country, the average fertility rate for Muslim women in Nigeria is between six and seven children per woman, compared with an average of five children per woman for non-Muslims.
High fertility rates among Nigeria’s Muslims are related to factors such as lower levels of education and lower use of birth control. According to a Pew Forum analysis of the 2008 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, the percentage of women of childbearing age who cannot read is three times as high among Muslims (71.9%) as among non-Muslim Nigerians (23.9%). Muslim women of childbearing age are also much less likely to have received a formal education than are other women in the country; 66.0% of Muslim women have no formal education, compared with 11.2% of non-Muslims. Only about 3% of Muslim women in Nigeria have attended college or university, compared with roughly 14% of non-Muslim women.
According to the 2008 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, Muslim women in Nigeria marry more than three years earlier on average than non-Muslim women (15.9 years for Muslims, compared with 19.5 years for non-Muslims). Also, 81.3% of Muslim women say they do not intend to use birth control, compared with 51.2% of non-Muslim women.
Geographically, Muslims are more concentrated in the northern part of Nigeria and Christians in the southern part, while the mid-section of the country is more religiously mixed.
1 This sidebar updates information on Nigeria contained in the Pew Forum’s 2009 report, Mapping the Global Muslim Population. That report, which was based on the 2003 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), estimated that Muslims made up 50.4% of Nigeria’s population. But the results of the 2008 Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, which were made public after the release of the Pew Forum’s 2009 report, contradicted the 2003 NDHS, saying Muslims accounted for 45% of the population. Given the conflicting findings, this report averaged the two NDHS estimates and then projected the average forward to 2010, based on the most recent demographic growth rates for religious groups in the country. The report takes this approach because it is highly unlikely that the Muslim population in Nigeria declined by five percentage points between 2003 and 2008, given past census and NDHS trends that put the Muslim proportion of Nigeria’s population at between 47% and 48%. (return to text)