NEW YORK (JTA) – By 2050, there will be more Muslims in North America than Jews, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
The report, which was released Thursday, also found that more American Jews are leaving Judaism than non-Jews are joining the Jewish people.
According to “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050,” Muslims will overtake Christians in the last quarter of the 21st century as the globe’s largest religious group. In the United States, Muslims will comprise 2.1 per cent of the population in 2050, up from 0.9 percent in 2010. Jews, meanwhile, will fall to 1.4 per cent of the U.S. population from 1.8 per cent in 2010.
The Pew study also offered a detailed look at the sizes of national Jewish communities around the world, how fast the communities are expected to shrink or grow, and Jewish fertility rates.
There were nearly 14 million Jews around the globe in 2010, with expected growth to 16 million by 2050, according to the study – a lower growth rate than the general world population. Overall, Jews comprise roughly 0.2 per cent of the world’s population, with about 44 per cent of Jews in North America; 41 per cent in Israel, the Middle East and North Africa; 10 per cent in Europe; and 3 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
By 2050, 51 per cent of Jews are expected to live in the Middle East – almost all in Israel – and 37 per cent in North America. The number of Jews in Europe is expected to decline more precipitously and outpace general European population shrinkage, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the study showed that globally there were 1.6 billion Muslims in 2010 and a predicted growth to nearly 2.8 billion in 2050 – from 23 per cent of the population to 30 per cent. In 2050, nearly three of every 10 people will be Muslims.
Today, the United States and Israel have about the same number of Jews, though there is some debate among Jewish demographers over which country is ahead. The Pew study counted 5.7 million Jews in the U.S. and 5.6 million in Israel, but other studies have shown more than 6 million Jews in each country, and Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics said Israel had 6.2 million Jews in 2014. In any case, Israel is expected to pull unambiguously ahead in the coming years.
The study counted as Jews those who self-identify as Jewish when asked their religion. It does not include so-called Jews of no religion – those who have Jewish ancestry or consider themselves partially Jewish but say they are not Jewish by religion.
Nearly 95 per cent of all Jews live in just 10 countries, according to the study. Except for Israel, none of those countries is more than 2 per cent Jewish. The 10 countries with the most Jews are, in descending order, according to Pew, the United States, Israel, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, Argentina, Australia and Brazil.
Jewish fertility rates are highest in Israel (2.8 children per woman), whereas Jewish fertility rates in North America (2.0) and Europe (1.8) are below replacement level (2.3). In the United States, the Jewish fertility rate is 1.9 children per woman.
In every region examined by Pew, the Jewish median age was older than that of the general population. In the world overall, the median age was 28, compared with the Jewish median age of 37. In North America the median age is 37, with the Jews at 41.
While the study showed that the spread of secularism is expected to continue and the number of atheists projected to rise, religious people are expected to grow as a proportion of the global population because they tend to have more children.
In Europe, Muslims are expected to grow to 10 per cent of the population in 2050, from 6 per cent in 2010.
In the United States, Americans of no religion are expected to grow from 16 per cent in 2010 to 25 per cent by 2050, and Christians are expected to shrink from 78 per cent in five years to 66 per cent by 2050.