Within the next half-century, Christianity’s long reign as the world’s largest religion could come to an end, according to a report just released which relies on the Pew Research Center original population growth projections for religious groups. Indeed, Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2015 and 2060, and in the second half of this century will likely overtake Christians as the world’s largest religious group.
While the world’s population is expected to increase by 32% over the next few decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 70%, from 1.8 billion in 2015 to almost 3 billion in 2060. In 2015, Muslims numbered 24, 1% of the world’s population. population. Forty-five years later, they should represent more than three in ten people in the world (31.1%).
Try our Muslims and Islam email course
Learn about Muslims and Islam through four short lessons delivered to your inbox every other day.
The main reasons for the growth of Islam ultimately relate to simple demographics. For starters, Muslims have more children than members of the other seven major religious groups analyzed in the study. Muslim women have an average of 2.9 children, significantly above the next highest group (Christians at 2.6) and the average for all non-Muslims (2.2). In all major regions where there is a large Muslim population, Muslim fertility exceeds non-Muslim fertility.
Muslim population growth is also aided by the fact that Muslims have the youngest median age (24 in 2015) of all major religious groups, more than seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. Muslims (32 years old).
A greater proportion of Muslims will soon be at the point in their lives where people start having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will accelerate the growth of the Muslim population.
More than a third of Muslims are concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, regions expected to experience the largest population increases. But even in these high-growth regions — as well as others — Muslims are expected to grow faster than members of other groups. For example, Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are on average younger and have higher fertility than the region’s population as a whole. In fact, Muslims are expected to increase as a percentage of all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean, where relatively few Muslims live.
The same dynamic applies to many countries where Muslims live in large numbers alongside other religious groups. For example, the number of Muslims in India is growing at a faster rate than the country’s majority Hindu population and is expected to grow from 14.9% of India’s population in 2015 to 19.4% (or 333 million people) in 2060. And while there were similar numbers of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria as of 2015, Muslims there have higher fertility and are expected to reach a solid majority of Nigeria’s population (60.5%) in 2060.
Meanwhile, religious shift – which is expected to hamper Christian growth by around 72 million between 2015 and 2060 – is not expected to have a net negative impact on Muslim population growth.
This is an update to an article originally published on April 23, 2015.
A new estimate of America’s Muslim population
5 facts about the Muslim population in Europe
The world’s Muslim population more widespread than you think
Michael Lipca is Editorial Director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center.
Conrad Hacket is a senior demographer and associate director of research at the Pew Research Center.