Reaffirming Fertility Decline in the Muslim World

Hoover Institute, Stanford University, http://bit.ly/L4FLKp Policy Review #173, June 01, 2012

The full article:  

Excerpts:

"Throughout the Ummah, or worldwide Muslim community, fertility levels are falling dramatically for countries and subnational populations...

"According to the UN Population Division estimates and projections, all 48 Muslim-majority countries and territories witnessed fertility decline over the last three decades...
 
"...a drop of an estimated 2.6 births per woman between 1975 and 1980 and 2005 and 2010 — a markedly larger absolute decline than estimated for either the world as a whole (-1.3) or the less developed regions as a whole (-2.2) during those same years. Fully eighteen of these Muslim-majority places saw tfrs fall by three or more over those 30 years — with nine of them by four births per woman or more! In Oman, tfrs plummeted by an astonishing 5.6 births per woman during those 30 years: an average estimated pace of nearly 1.9 births per woman every decade...

"The estimated population-weighted average for the Muslim-majority areas as a whole was -41 percent over these three decades: by any historical benchmark, an exceptionally rapid tempo of sustained fertility decline.... In aggregate, the proportional decline in fertility for Muslim-majority areas was again greater than for the world as a whole over that same period (-33 percent) or for the less-developed regions as whole (-34 percent). Fully 22 Muslim-majority countries and territories were estimated to have undergone fertility declines of 50 percent or more during those three decades — ten of them by 60 percent or more....

"Six of the ten largest absolute declines in fertility for a two-decade period yet recorded in the postwar era (and by extension, we may suppose, ever to take place under orderly conditions in human history) have occurred in Muslim-majority countries. The four very largest of these absolute declines, furthermore, all happened in Muslim-majority countries — each of these entailing a decline of over 4.5 births per woman in just 20 years. (The world record-breaker here, Oman, is estimated to have seen its tfr fall by over 5.3 births per woman over just the last two decades: a drop of over 2.6 births per woman per decade.) Notably, four of the ten greatest fertility declines ever recorded in a 20-year period took place in the Arab world (Algeria, Libya, Kuwait, and Oman); adding in Iran, we see that five of these “top ten” unfolded in the greater Middle East. No other region of the world — not highly dynamic Southeast Asia, or even rapidly modernizing East Asia — comes close to this showing....

"Algeria, Bangladesh, and Morocco all have fertility levels corresponding to the state of Texas, while Indonesia’s is almost identical to Arkansas’s. Turkey and Azerbaijan, for their part, are on par with Louisiana, while the tfr in Tunisia looks like that in Illinois. Lebanon’s fertility level is lower than New York State’s. As for Iran, its fertility level today is comparable with those of the New England states, the region in America with the lowest fertility....

"At any given level of per capita income, literacy, and contraceptive use, Muslim-majority societies today can be expected to have fewer children than their counterparts in non-Muslim societies nowadays...!

"
The remarkable fertility declines now unfolding throughout the Muslim world is one of the most important demographic developments in our era.... 

"Two works in particular may be saluted in this regard: Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd’s A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around The World (Columbia University Press, 2011), and David P. Goldman’s How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) (Regnery, 2011). The former is a translation of a 2007 study by two noted French demographers; the latter, a wide-ranging and provocative exposition by an American public intellectual. Neither work has to date received the readership it deserves."