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Muslims expected to make up 2.1% of U.S. population by 2050

New Pew study analyzes religious affiliation in America

By Bryant Macale – Christians, at 70.6%, and Jew, at 1.9%, are the top two religious groups in the United States at present. But religious minority groups are on the rise, according to a new report from Pew Research Center. Two major trends are contributing to this rise, the increase religiously unaffiliated people and the decline of Christians in the United States.  Published in April 2015, the newest Pew Report on religion in America was based on findings from telephone interviews with more than 35,000 adults all over the United States.

If current religious trends continue, the center reported, by 2050, globally, the number of Muslims will be almost at par with the number of Christians. The study projected that over the next four decades, one in every 10 people living in Europe will be a Muslim. Although it will still have a Hindu majority, India will surpass Indonesia as the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. Christians will still be the largest religious group over the next four decades. However, Islam will expand faster than any other religion, according to the Pew Research Center.

Jews at present are the largest religious minority group in the United States. However, there may be more American Muslims than those who identify themselves as Jewish by 2050, according to the study on major religious groups around the world.

Muslims, partly due to their continued migration into the United States, are expected to make up 2.1% of the American population 35 years from now. The figure is up from about only 0.9 percent five years ago. The number of Muslims is also increasing because of two other factors: They have the highest fertility rate at present and the youngest median age of all the major religious groups in the United States.

The number of followers of Judaism, according to the study, is projected to decrease as the largest non-Christian religion in the United States. American Jews are expected to comprise 1.4% of the American population in 2050, a decline from 1.8% five years ago.

The median age of Jews living in the United States as of 2010 was 41, while the median age for American Muslims was 24, a 17-year difference. On average, American Jews produce 1.9 children per woman. Muslims, on the other hand, have 2.8 children per woman.

American Muslims are not the only ones growing. Other American religious minorities are also expanding, such as Hindus and Buddhists. Hindus, another relatively young group that continues to grow due to migration, are expected to grow from 0.6% of the population five years ago to 1.2% in 2050. Similar causes also account for the expected rise in the total population share of Buddhists (modestly growing from 1.2% to 1.4%).

Interestingly, there are also two small religious categories that are expected to expand. Members of “other religions” (a broad term for all those who are not categorized elsewhere in the study’s projections, such as Wiccans, Unitarian Universalists and Sikhs) are expected to increase from just 0.6% of the total American population five years ago to about 1.5% in 2050. Those who are adherents of folk religions (such as Native American religions) are expected to grow from 0.2% to 0.5%. Religious people who switch into these categories, the statistics of which have been also observed in recent surveys, account for a number of these increases.

Overall, minority religious groups—those who are neither Christians nor unaffiliated—are estimated to grow from roughly 5% of the total population in the United States five years ago to about 8% in 2050.

Those who have no religious affiliation or no religion at all will drop from 16.4% to 13.2% of the world’s population, but will increase in the United States from 22.8% in 2010 to 25.6% in 2050.

Other global religious trends are forecast by 2050: Christians in the United States will fall to two-thirds of the population compared with more than three-quarters five years ago, according to the study; about 40% of Christians all over the world will be living in sub-Saharan Africa; the Buddhist population in the world will virtually remain the same as it was in 2010, and Jewish and Hindu populations will become bigger than they are at present.

The Pew Research Center’s projections consider the present size as well as the geographic distribution of the major religions in the world, fertility and mortality rates, age differences, patterns in conversion, and international migration. The study projected a world population of 9.3 billion in 2050, which would be a 35% increase from 2010.

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