With the highest fertility rate of any religious group worldwide, the Muslim population will achieve parity with the Christian population within less than 50 years, according to a new study.
Within less than 20 years, between 2030 and 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims annually will surpass the number among Christians, which is projected to be 224 million.
That gap will continue to grow, and by 2060 Muslims will be having 6 million babies more per years then Christians, the study by the Pew Research Center, released Wednesday, predicted.
By 2060, when the world’s population is expected to number 9.6 billion (a third more than today’s), one in seven members of the human race will either be Muslim (3 billion people, or 31%) or Christian (3.1 billion, or 32%).
Muslims have an average birthrate of 2.9 children per woman, compared with 2.6 children for Christians and 2.3 per woman for Hindus and Jews.
Between 2010 and 2015, Muslims accounted for just under a third (31%) of all world births, while only making up a quarter (24%) of the population.
Jews — the smallest religious group for which predictions were made — will fall in their share of the world’s population, dipping from 0.2% now to 0.17% in 2060.
But more of them will live in Israel, the report predicted. Today, eight in 10 Jews live either in Israel (42%) or the US (40%). By 2060, more than half (53%) are expected to live in the Holy Land, with just a third (32%) remaining in North America.
In absolute terms, the worldwide Jewish population will grow by 15%, from 14.3 million in 2015 to 16.4 million worldwide in 2060.
The study said it defines Jews for the purpose of the survey as self-identifying when asked about their religion on national censuses and large-scale surveys.
Others, who have direct Jewish ancestry and consider themselves at least partially Jewish, but describe themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, were categorized as unaffiliated.
“The worldwide estimate of Jews could be larger if this group were included, or smaller if a narrower definition of who is Jewish (such as an unbroken line of matrilineal Jewish descent) were used,” the study said.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the percentage of people who are Muslim is expected to stay steady at 20%.
The world’s Christian population will grow more modestly than the Muslim one because of the relatively large number of deaths due to the advanced age of Christians in populations such as Europe.
Buddhists and those declaring that they are not religious will decline as their populations age and fertility drops in places such as China, Japan, Europe and North America, the report said.
The study built on a database of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers.
The projections did not assume that all babies will remain in the religion of their mother. The projections attempted to take religious switching (in all directions) into account, although conversion patterns are complex and varied, the researchers said.