Within 20 years, the number of babies born to Muslim parents will exceed those born to Christians, a study published by the Pew Research Center Wednesday has found. The estimate is part of a trend that is likely to see Islam become the most followed religion in the world in 2070.
Between 2010 and 2015, births to Muslims made up an estimated 31 percent of all babies born around the world—surpassing the current Muslim share of the population, estimated to be 24 percent.
In comparison, the Christian population is growing at a slower rate. In recent years, 33 percent of the world’s babies were born to Christian mothers, compared to the religion’s 31 percent share of the global population in 2015.
The number of babies born into the two religious groups will continue to grow in the coming years, even as the number of births for all other religious groups is expected to decline steadily. But Muslims, who on average have 2.9 children compared to 2.6 for Christian women, are expected to grow at the fastest rate of all.
By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims will exceed those born to Christian mothers, Pew estimated. And between 2055 and 2060, the gap between the two is predicted to reach six million, with 232 million births for Muslims and 226 million to Christians.
As well as fertility rates, the average ages of those in each religious group will also play a part. The median age of Muslims worldwide is 24 years, compared to 30 years for Christians, Pew found from data it gathered from 2,500 censuses for a 2015 report.
While the global population will shift, there will be greater adjustments for a number of regions. In particular, the percentage of Christians in Europe is expected to decline sharply by 2060, from 24 percent to 14 percent. Part of that is due to religious conversions, which will see Christianity lose around eight million adherents between 2015 and 2020.
While Islam’s ascent to becoming the world’s most popular religion will predominantly be a result of births, it will also gain 420,000 followers through people converting to the religion.
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