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Shifting Demographics

Islam is set to have as many followers as Christianity by 2060

Islam has 1.8 billion followers, but a Muslim baby boom is expected.

IN RECENT YEARS, Christians have had more babies than any other religious group worldwide. But by 2035, Muslims are projected to experience the higher birth rate, putting the world’s two largest religions on track to have a near equal share of the global population by 2060, according to a demographic analysis released last night.

With 2.3 billion adherents, Christians are the world’s largest religious group and are expected to remain so for several decades, according to the Pew Research Center report The Changing Global Religious Landscape.

Muslims have 1.8 billion followers, but a Muslim baby boom is expected to narrow that gap. By 2060, Muslims are expected to comprise 31% of the world population, with nearly 3 billion people, while Christians will make up about 32%, or 3.1 billion people.

The new report builds on a Pew study two years ago that found Islam is the world’s fastest-growing major faith and, if current demographic trends continue, Muslims could outnumber Christians by the end of the century.

The analyses are based on 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers from around the world. Pew researchers took into account expected conversion rates, but said birth and death rates would have a far greater impact on religious populations.

PastedImage-31574 Muslim pilgrims prepare themselves for Friday prayers in front of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty / Nariman El-Mofty

According to the latest report, 223 million babies were born to Christians from 2010 to 2015, compared to 213 million babies born to Muslims in the same period. By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims is projected to exceed those for Christians, narrowly at first, then eventually by millions.

Other religious groups, including Hindus and Jews, will grow in total numbers by 2060, but will not keep pace with global population growth. A low birth rate for people who don’t affiliate with any religion means that their share of the world population will also shrink.

Christianity is growing especially strongly in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2060, 4 in 10 Christians will live in Africa, according to Pew’s projections. At the same time, in many European countries, such as Germany, the death rate for Christians is exceeding births, a trend that is expected to continue.

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