Data | Fertility rates decline across religions in India, sharpest drop recorded among Muslims

India's religious composition has remained largely stable as fertility rates have declined across religious groups

September 23, 2021 04:11 pm | Updated 04:45 pm IST

Picture used for representational purpose only.

Picture used for representational purpose only.

The religious composition of India’s population has remained largely stable since Independence as fertility rates have declined across all religious groups, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Fertility rate is the number of children a woman would have on average in her lifetime. There has been a significant decline in fertility rates across religious groups, with Muslims recording the highest drop. As a result, the population growth rates have also declined across all religions. The fertility rates of religious groups have, in fact, converged over time. Another recent Pew study suggests that religious conversion had little bearing on the composition of the population.

98% said^ they currently identify themselves with the same religion they were raised in, pointing to the minimal impact of religious conversion.

The population growth rate of Muslims dropped from 32.7% in 1951-61 to 24.7% in 2001-11. In the same time periods, the population growth rate of Hindus dropped from 20.7% to 16.7%.

Drop in fertility levels

The chart depicts the steep fall in fertility rates across religious groups. The sharpest fall was recorded among Muslims. Also, the gap in fertility levels between religions has reduced. In 1992, a Muslim woman gave birth to an average of 1.1 more children than a Hindu. However, in 2015, this difference reduced to 0.5.

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Minimal change in composition

The chart depicts the change in India’s religious composition between 1951 and 2011. There have been only modest changes in the overall religious make up of the population in the 60-year period.


Stable even at 2050

According to Pew Research Center’s demographic projections for 2050, Hindus will form 77% of India’s total population (a 2% point decrease from 2020) and the share of Muslims will grow by 3% points to 18% in 2050).


Impact of conversion

While the fertility rate has been the primary driver of change in the composition of the population, another^ Pew report study says religious conversion had no impact on demographic change. Only 0.7% of Hindus said they were raised Hindu but identified with some other religion, while 0.8% said they weren’t raised Hindu but now identified as Hindu. This suggests that there has been little movement in and out of religious groups.