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Muslim population grew by 4.4% while that of Hindus declined by 4.3%: Study

Hindus increased from 304 million (30.4 crore) to 966 million (96.6 crore), Muslims grew from 35 million (3.5 crore) to 172 million (17.2 crore) in last 60 years

Tuesday September 21, 2021 8:33 PM, ummid.com News Network

India Population growth

Washington: India’s population has more than tripled in the six decades following the Partition of 1947, from 361 million (36.1 crore) people in the 1951 census to more than 1.2 billion (120 crore) in 2011. As of 2020, India is gaining roughly 1 million (10 lakh) inhabitants each month, putting it on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2030.

Though religious groups grew at uneven rates between 1951 and 2011, every major religion in India saw its numbers rise, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. For example, Hindus increased from 304 million (30.4 crore) to 966 million (96.6 crore), Muslims grew from 35 million (3.5 crore) to 172 million (17.2 crore), and the number of Indians who say they are Christian rose from 8 million (0.8 crore) to 28 million (2.8 crore).

The 3% of Indians who identify with religions other than Hinduism, Islam or Christianity have grown to represent tens of millions (crores) of people in the decades since independence. Sikhs, India’s fourth-largest religious group, have increased from 7 million (70 lakh) adherents in 1951 to nearly 21 million (2.1 crore) in 2011, while remaining a consistent share of India’s population (just under 2%). Buddhists and Jains show a similar pattern – their numbers have doubled or tripled over the decades, while their shares have held steady, both under 1%.

"Population growth of six largest religious groups"

In percentage terms, India’s six largest religious groups have remained relatively stable since Partition. The greatest shift has been a modest rise in the share of Muslims, accompanied by a corresponding decline in the share of Hindus. Between 1951 and 2011, Muslims grew by 4.4 percentage points to 14.2% of the population, while Hindus declined by 4.3 points to 79.8%.

Christians have made up between 2% and 3% of India’s population in every census since 1951. Although there are concerns that Christians may be undercounted, it is difficult to determine the extent of such an undercount and how it may be changing over time.

Growth rates have declined for all of India’s major religious groups, but the slowdown has been more pronounced among religious minorities, who outpaced Hindus in earlier decades. Between 1951 and 1961, the Muslim population expanded by 32.7%, 11 percentage points more than India’s overall rate of 21.6%. But this gap has narrowed. From 2001 to 2011, the difference in growth between Muslims (24.7%) and Indians overall (17.7%) was 7 percentage points. India’s Christian population grew at the slowest pace of the three largest groups in the most recent census decade – gaining 15.7% between 2001 and 2011, a far lower growth rate than the one recorded in the decade following Partition (29.0%).


"Migration and Conversion"

Migration is one of three main mechanisms, along with fertility and conversion, that cause religious groups to shrink or expand. But since the 1950s, migration has had only a modest impact on India’s religious composition. More than 99% of people who live in India were also born in India. Migrants leaving India outnumber immigrants three-to-one, and religious minorities are more likely than Hindus to leave.

Religious switching, or conversion – when an individual leaves one religion for another or stops affiliating with any religion – also appears to have had a relatively small impact on India’s overall composition, with 98% of Indian adults still identifying with the religion in which they were raised.

As a result, statistical analysis of census and survey data shows that fertility has been by far the biggest driver of the modest amount of religious change in the decades since Partition.

"Fertility rate"

India’s fertility rate has been declining rapidly in recent decades. Today, the average Indian woman is expected to have 2.2 children in her lifetime, a fertility rate that is higher than rates in many economically advanced countries like the United States (1.6) but much lower than India’s in 1992 (3.4) or 1950 (5.9).

Every religious group in the country has seen its fertility fall, including the majority Hindu population and Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minority groups. Among Indian Muslims, for example, the total fertility rate has declined dramatically, from 4.4 children per woman in 1992 to 2.6 children in 2015, the most recent year for which religion data is available from India’s National Family Health Survey.

"Fertility rate of Indian Muslims"

Muslims still have the highest fertility rate among India’s major religious groups, followed by Hindus at 2.1. Jains have the lowest fertility rate (1.2). The general pattern is largely the same as it was in 1992, when Muslims had the highest fertility rate at 4.4, followed by Hindus at 3.3. But the gaps in childbearing between India’s religious groups are generally much smaller than they used to be. For example, while Muslim women were expected to have an average of 1.1 more children than Hindu women in 1992, the gap had shrunk to 0.5 by 2015.

What do these trends mean for India’s religious composition? India’s Muslim population has grown somewhat faster than other religious groups because of fertility differences. But due in part to declining and converging fertility patterns, there have been only modest changes in the overall religious makeup of the population since 1951, when India conducted its first census as an independent nation.

These are among the key findings of a Pew Research Center demographic analysis of data from India’s census and other sources, designed to complement a major new public opinion survey, “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation,” published in June 2021.

Population sizes over time come from India’s decennial census. The census has collected detailed information on India’s inhabitants, including on religion, since 1881. Data on fertility and how it is related to factors like education levels and place of residence is from India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The NFHS is a large, nationally representative household survey with more extensive information about childbearing than the census.

Data on migration is primarily from the United Nations Population Division. Survey responses about religious switching (or conversion) and interfaith marriage are from a Pew Research Center survey of 29,999 Indian adults conducted in late 2019 and early 2020.

This study, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, is part of a larger effort by Pew Research Center to understand religious change and its impact on societies around the world.

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