Pew Survey Finds Religious Conversion In India Is Rare

The study highlights how the religious composition of India has only seen some modest changes since 1951, due to the fast decline in birth rates across religions.

India's fertility rates were found to be in rapid decline in the past few decades, cutting across religious lines, according to the latest study by Pew Research Center.

The study, titled "Religious Composition of India", is the second such study on religion in India published by the American think tank this year. It's first study, published in June, had revealed how most Indians are opposed to interfaith and inter-caste marriages. A survey by Pew had also revealed that religious conversion in India was rare, more so for Hindus, than Muslims and Christians.

Also Read: Most Indians Oppose Interfaith And Intercaste Marriages: Pew Study

The latest study highlights how the religious composition of India has only seen some modest changes since 1951, due to the fast decline in fertility rates across religions. Fertility rate has been defined as the number of children an average woman in India is expected to have in her lifetime.

Muslims were found to have the highest fertility rate (2.6 per cent), followed by Hindus (2.1 per cent), while Jains had the lowest fertility rate at 1.2 per cent. The fertility rate among Muslims also saw the sharpest decline since the 1990's dropping from 4.1 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

Due to this, the fertility rates of Hindus and Muslims appear to be converging with time. This is also true for other religions - the gaps in childbearing between India's religious groups generally appear to be shrinking.

Pew conducted the study using population data from India's decennial census, while data on fertility rates were obtained through the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

Population Growth

India's population has grown more than three-fold since Partition, from 361 million people in 1951, to 1.2 billion in 2011.

Hindus continue to be a large majority in India, and currently stands at 79.8 per cent of the population. Muslims continue to be a large minority, with its share of the population growing from 9.8 per cent to 14.2 per cent.

The study also highlighted that around 8 million (80 lakh) people said in 2011 that they did not belong to any of the six largest religious groups, although 'nearly all of them volunteered some other religious affiliation'. Furthermore, only 30,000 Indians described themselves as atheists.

2050 Population Projections

The study also made some projections about the population of various religious groups in the country.

Hindus were projected to reach 1.3 billion (130 crore) by 2050, while the Muslim population was projected to reach 311 million (31.1 crore). Christians were projected to reach 37 million (3.7 crore) by then.

"In the projected scenario, as of 2020 about 15% of Indians are Muslim (vs. 14.2% in the 2011 census), 79% are Hindu (vs. 79.8% in 2011), and 2% are Christian (in line with 2011). In 2050, Hindus are projected to represent about 77% of Indians, Muslims 18% and Christians still 2%. Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains all have fertility rates well below the national average and are therefore projected to shrink as a share of the population."

- Religious composition of India, Pew Research Center, 2021

Fertility and Women's Education

The study also found that fertility is closely linked to women's education in India - with more education usually resulting in women having less children.

"Each additional year of education correlates with a significant drop in fertility, according to a multilevel analysis by Pew Research Center that accounts for education, wealth, age and place of residence – all factors known to be associated with fertility," the Pew study notes.

It also highlights the the low fertility rates among Christians is linked to the fact that Christian women have relatively higher levels of education in the country.

Low Conversion

Pew's survey of 30,000 Indians further revealed that religious conversion in the country was rare.

99% of those who were raised as Hindu were still found to be Hindu. As for Muslims, 97 per cent of those raised in Islam were still Muslims. Meanwhile, 94 per cent of those raised as Christians were still Christians.

Pew also noted that those who do switch religions, tend to cancel each other out.

"For example, among all Indian adults, 0.7% were raised Hindu but no longer identify as such, and 0.8% were raised outside of the religion and are now Hindu", it notes.

Most States Hindu Majority

Hindus were found to be a large majority in 28 out of 35 states and Union Territories, including the most populous states in India - Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.

While Muslims were found to be a majority in only 2 UTs - Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshadweep - only 5% of India's Muslim population were found to reside here. 95 per cent of Muslims were found to reside in states where they are religious minorities.

Meanwhile, Christians are a majority in Nagaland (2 million), Mizoram (1 million) and Meghalaya (3 million).

Updated On: 2021-09-23T13:58:51+05:30
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