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Nonetheless, it is possible to use data on past migration as a reasonable estimate for the future, just as past fertility and religious switching patterns are used in this report to model future fertility and switching.

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The Pew Research Center, in collaboration with researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, has developed an innovative technique to estimate recent migration patterns and their religious breakdown. First, recent changes in the origins and destinations of migrants worldwide are estimated using census and survey data about the migrant population living in each country.

Finally, the religious breakdown of migrant flows is used to calculate migration rates into and out of most countries by religion, by sex and by five-year age groups. For more detail on how future migration was projected, see the Methodology. Between and , approximately 19 million people are expected to move across international borders. Muslim migrants, numbering about 6 million in total, are expected to come largely from the Asia-Pacific and Middle East-North Africa regions, migrating within those same regions as well as to Europe and North America.

As a result of these movements from one region to another, the Asia-Pacific region is projected to experience a net loss of approximately 2 million Muslims and , Hindus between and The Latin America-Caribbean region is likely to see a net loss of 3 million Christians from migration. And sub-Saharan Africa is projected to have a net loss of about , Christians and Muslims, combined. However, the birth rates in these regions are relatively high, and their current populations are relatively young.

Consequently, their total populations are projected to grow despite emigration, and the outflows are not likely to significantly change their religious makeup. By contrast, net inflows of migrants are expected to have a substantial impact on the religious makeup of many countries in Europe, North America and the Middle East-North Africa region. For example, a net inflow of 1 million Muslims is projected to occur in Europe between and Smaller numerical gains from migration also are projected in Europe for both Buddhists and Hindus. Religious minorities in North America also are expected to experience net gains from migration between and , including Muslims about , , Hindus about , and Buddhists about , These religious groups are expected to come from all over the world, but primarily from Asia and the Pacific.

The Middle East-North Africa region is likely to see a net inflow of Hindus and Christians through migration, primarily to the oil-rich Gulf states. Hindus are expected to come principally from India and Nepal, while Christians are projected to come from the Philippines, other countries in Asia and the Pacific and Europe.

To see how much impact migration has on the projections, researchers compared the main projection scenario used in this report with an alternative scenario in which no international migration occurs after A variety of factors, including higher birth rates and a bulging youth population among Muslims in Europe, underlie this expected increase. But immigration also plays a role. The projected share of Muslims in Europe in is nearly two percentage points higher than in the alternative scenario with no new migration.

In certain countries, the impact is even greater. In an alternative scenario involving no additional immigration to Sweden after , the Muslim share of the population still would increase by , but only to 6.

In addition to Sweden, the European countries in which migration is projected to make the biggest impact on the Muslim population — a difference of at least three percentage points — are Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom. In North America, minority religious groups including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, other religions and the unaffiliated also are projected to grow, partly due to immigration. For example, Muslims are projected to make up 2.

Similarly, the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated in North America are forecast to be 1.


A few countries in the Asia-Pacific region are likely to experience religious change due to immigration. For example, Australia and New Zealand are projected to have slight increases in their non-Christian populations, as Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus continue moving to these two countries. Muslim and Christian populations are forecast to grow in economic hubs such as Hong Kong and Japan as immigrants belonging to these religious groups move from various countries in East Asia, including Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Middle East-North Africa region also is expected to experience substantial religious change when immigration is factored into the projections, mostly due to anticipated migration to Gulf Cooperation Council GCC countries. Although migration is expected to boost the religious diversity of GCC countries, all the Gulf states are projected to retain Muslim majorities in Religious change also can occur as a result of emigration, the movement of people out of a country or region.

But across the Middle East and North Africa as a whole, the emigration of Christians is expected to be offset by an influx of Christian immigrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Indeed, the net number of Christians entering GCC countries is expected to be about three times as large 1.


Emigration of smaller religious groups from some regions is expected to have a noticeable effect. For example, most of the projected decline in the number of Jews in Europe from 1. And most of the expected decline of Hindus in Latin America and the Caribbean from , in to , in is due to Hindu emigration out of the region, mainly to North America. With a population currently estimated at more than 1. Measuring religious affiliation in China relies on imperfect surveys and other sources of data, including reports by official religious bodies, ethnic proxies for Muslims , and estimates by religious groups operating in networks that are not approved by the Chinese government.

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Surveys that do exist, for instance, seem to underreport unregistered groups and Chinese folk religions in particular. Therefore, not only are current estimates only rough estimates, but reliable data on recent trends are unobtainable. Furthermore, in the past decade hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved from the countryside — where unregistered practice was reported by observers to be higher — to cities where religious networks may not have been transferred or replaced.

There are no sources adequate to measure patterns of religious switching across China.

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This sidebar briefly reviews some of the challenges of measuring religion in China and provides an example of how religious switching in China could alter the global projections in this report. While it is clear that religious affiliation and practice have risen dramatically in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution, data on recent patterns of religious switching are practically nonexistent Anecdotally, some newspaper articles and reports from religious groups have attempted to describe changes underway in China, but it is unclear how accurately these accounts reflect change underway at the country level.

While all religious groups in China could be experiencing significant change through switching, media reports and expert assessments generally suggest that the main effects are rising numbers of Christians and declining numbers of religiously unaffiliated people. The following sensitivity tests assume, for illustrative purposes, that switching is limited to this movement between the unaffiliated and Christians. As of , China had an estimated 68 million Christians and million unaffiliated people.

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  4. Under that main scenario, 5. Though that scenario may be unlikely, it offers a rough sense of how much difference religious switching in China maximally could have by About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world.

    It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.

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    Fertility Over the last half century, the global fertility rate has fallen sharply. Regional Differences in Fertility Fertility patterns may vary between countries and larger geographic regions for a host of reasons, including cultural norms, levels of economic development, education systems and government policies that encourage or discourage family planning.

    Hypothetical Scenarios: Seeing How Much Difference Fertility Makes As previously noted, the projections in this report take into account differences in fertility rates among major religious groups within countries and territories. Life Expectancy Life expectancy at birth — an estimate of the expected life span of an average newborn child — has been rising around the world. Religious Switching In many countries, it is fairly common for adults to switch from identifying with the religion in which they grew up to identifying with another religion or with no religion.

    Regional Patterns At the regional level, some patterns stand out. Alternative Scenarios: Seeing How Much Difference Switching Makes Religious switching may have a large impact on the religious composition of individual countries. Migration International migration has no immediate impact on the global size of religious groups. Initial Effects of Migration, Between and , approximately 19 million people are expected to move across international borders. The standard measure of fertility in this report is the Total Fertility Rate TFR , which is defined as the total number of children an average woman would have in her lifetime if fertility patterns did not change.

    The TFR is calculated by estimating age-specific fertility rates for women of reproductive age usually ages by five-year age groups and then summing the rates. The age-specific fertility rates are calculated by counting the number of children born during a given period usually three years and dividing the number of children by the number of women in each age group.

    However, in countries with high mortality conditions, upwards of three children may be necessary for a population to sustain itself. For more information, see Espenshade, Thomas J. For an overview of replacement fertility, see Smallwood, Steve and Jessica Chamberlain.

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    Notably, none of the districts in Bihar have attained such low levels of fertility for the Hindu population. It is interesting to note that out of districts, in only one district in Meghalaya the TFR among the Hindu population was as high or more than four births per woman. In almost all the remaining districts in these states, TFR among Muslims is between 2 and 3 and approaching the replacement level. Only in a few districts and no district in the state of Bihar in these states, TFR among Muslims is at a low level.

    Also, there are a substantial proportion of districts in these states where TFR among Muslims is between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. Generally, it has been observed that in areas with a considerable decline in fertility there is hardly any district with very high fertility among Muslims. Notable exceptions are Assam and Haryana. Fertility transition among Hindus was found to be widespread, encompassing the entire southern, north-western, and eastern part of the country. Decline of fertility among the Hindu population has also spread in the north-eastern parts to a considerable extent.

    Even in the relatively high fertility north-central zone, there are few pockets of low fertility areas for Hindus. Fertility either reached or is below replacement level among Muslims in a majority of the districts in south-eastern region of India including the extreme south and in the districts of hilly terrain and high altitudes of the north. Besides, fertility among Muslims also reached a low level in some parts of the north-eastern and eastern parts. There are a few districts along the Arabian coast and in some pockets in the north-central India where fertility among Muslims has reached replacement level.

    Fertility transition among Muslims has been underway in most of the districts of the south-central region and also in eastern and north-eastern region except few pockets.

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    Thus, one can argue that although fertility among Muslims is higher compared to that of Hindus, there is a clear sign of convergence in fertility rates of Hindus and Muslims, which will either be at par or below replacement levels across the different regions in India in the foreseeable future.

    It may be ascertained from the present analysis that fertility transition has been underway for both Hindus and Muslims, at a varying pace, when compared to the state-level indirect estimates of Census. It has also been observed that though the overall convergence of fertility between Hindus and Muslims has been underway, significant regional variations still persist.