June 30, 2022
Pew study: Little change in India's religious make-up in 70 years

Pew study: Little change in India's religious make-up in 70 years

Pew study: Little change in India’s religious make-up in 70 years

All religious groups in India have shown major declines in fertility rates, a study from Pew Research Center has found.

As a result there have been only “modest changes” in the religious make-up of the people since 1951.

The two largest groups, Hindus and Muslims, make up 94% of India’s 1.2 billion people.

Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together make up the remaining 6% of the population.

Based on data available in India’s decennial census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the Pew study examines how the country’s religious composition has changed, and the main reasons behind the changes.

India is neither a melting pot nor a salad bowl
India’s population has more than trebled following the 1947 division of a colonial state into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan – from 361 million people in 1951, to more than 1.2 billion people in 2011. (Independent India held its first census in 1951, and the last one was conducted in 2011.)

During this period, every major religion in India saw its numbers rise, the study found.

The number of Hindus increased from 304 million to 966 million; Muslims grew from 35 million to 172 million; and the number of Indians who say they are Christian rose from 8 million to 28 million.
The religious make-up of Indians
Hindus make up 79.8% of India’s 1.2 billion people in the 2021 census. 94% of the world’s Hindus live in India
Muslims comprise 14.2% of Indians. India is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, surpassed only by Indonesia
Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains together make up 6% of the population
Only about 30,000 Indians described themselves as atheists in 2011
Around 8 million people said that they did not belong to any of the six largest groups
There were 83 smaller religious groups and each had at least 100 adherents
India gains roughly 1 million inhabitants every month, putting it on course to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2030
(Source: 2011 census, Pew Research Center)

Presentational grey line
Muslims still have the highest fertility rate (2.6 children per woman in 2015) among the major religious groups, followed by Hindus (2.1). Jains have the lowest fertility rate at 1.2.

The study says the general pattern is largely the same as it was in 1992, when Muslims had the highest fertility rate (4.4), followed by Hindus (3.3).

“But the gaps in childbearing between India’s religious groups are generally much smaller than they used to be,” the study said.