Sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates

Nicolas EberstadtBy: By David Ignatius

Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.

Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.

Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, compared with a 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.

Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over these three decades.

Fertility in Iran declined an astonishing 70 percent over the 30-year period, which Eberstadt says was “one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history.” By 2000, Iran’s fertility rate had fallen to two births per woman, below the level necessary to replace current population, according to Eberstadt and his co-author, Apoorva Shah.

A July 2012 Financial Times story placed the Iranian fertility rate even lower and cited a U.N. report warning that Iran’s population will begin to shrink in two decades and will decline by more than 50 percent by the end of the century if current trends continue.

Big cities in the Muslim world have seen especially sharp drops. Eberstadt notes that only six states in America have lower rates than Istanbul. In Tehran and Isfahan, fertility rates are lower than those of any state in America.

Big cities in the Muslim world have seen especially sharp drops. Eberstadt notes that only six states in America have lower rates than Istanbul. In Tehran and Isfahan, fertility rates are lower than those of any state in America.

Eberstadt argues that the fertility decline isn’t just a result of rising incomes and economic development, though these certainly played a role. “Fertility decline over the past generation has been more rapid in the Arab states than virtually anywhere else on earth.”

The CIA’s World Factbook reports Muslim fertility rates slightly higher than Eberstadt’s estimates, but generally below those of many sub-Saharan African, Latin American and Asian countries.

Accompanying this fertility decline is what Eberstadt calls a “flight from marriage,” which he described in a paper presented last month in Doha, Qatar. His data show that in many areas of the world, men and women are getting married later or remaining unmarried. Divorce rates are also rising, especially in Europe, along with the percentage of extramarital births.

muslim population grouthThe decline of marriage in Europe is well-known but still striking: The female marriage rate fell in Germany from 0.98 to 0.59 from 1965 to 2000; it fell in France over that period from 0.99 to 0.61; in Sweden from 0.98 to 0.49; in Britain, from 1 to 0.54.

Marriage is also plummeting in Asia: In Japan, the percentage of women between 30 and 34 who have never married rose from 7.2 percent in 1970 to 26.6 percent in 2000; in Burma, it rose from 9.3 percent to 25.9 percent; in Thailand, from 8.1 percent to 16.1 percent; in South Korea, from 1.4 percent to 10.7 percent.

Marriage rates in the Arab world are higher, but they’re moving fast in the same direction. What’s “astonishing,” says Eberstadt in an email explaining his findings, is that in the Arab world, this move away from marriage “is by many measures already as far along as was Europe’s in the 1980s — and it is taking place at a vastly lower level of development than the corresponding flights in Europe and developed East Asia.”

“Something really big is under way — and practically no one has noticed it, even in the Arab world,” argues Eberstadt.

“Something really big is under way — and practically no one has noticed it, even in the Arab world,” argues Eberstadt.

These studies are a reminder that the big demographic trends shaping the world are mysterious, and often overlooked. The Arab world may be experiencing a youth bulge now, fueling popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. But as Eberstadt notes, what’s ahead over the next generation will probably be declines in the number of working-age adults and rapidly aging populations.

The Arab countries are now struggling with what Eberstadt calls their “youthquake.” But the coming dilemma, he notes, is “how these societies will meet the needs of their graying populations on relatively low income levels.”

First Published in the Washington Post

  • 5thDrawer

    Only people who push ‘market-for-profit’ thinking may see this as a bad thing … that supposed ‘need’ to always have more people to sell to. But for the planet in general, and possibly for human survival on it, it is surely a good thing, and may indeed be the results of overcrowding, with a genetically-recognized lack of sustainable food supplies, on top of a growing chemical mix of pollutants we have created changing the male sperm-counts – a factor not noted well here as a ‘fertility-rate’ item.
    We don’t yet understand all the ‘coding’ in the DNA. But even in early ‘humanoid’ development there seems to have been a down-turn which left only possibly 2000 humans in development in Africa.
    General human education has also brought awareness of situations no-one wants to bring a child into. Who really wants to see their progeny being killed off in some dumb-ass war, or subjected to mean living conditions all their sorry lives – whether by environment or by despot? Better to enjoy one’s own time as much as possible, in the reality of it’s finality – a conscious decision attainable easily with the understanding we now have in medical sciences.
    Indeed, the basic function of all parts of the human body are now known, and we spend more time trying to fix problems of them with various diseases – or recently, ‘printing out’ replacement parts – a combining of individual sciences as marvellous as it is seemingly other-worldly.
    And maybe slowly, finally, ‘the people’ are beginning to realize life can be good without some megalomaniac harping at them that it is necessary to propagate for ‘God’ when all he wants is cannon-fodder.

    • master09

      Girls are just waking up to the life they would live for the rest of life. It gets really hot dressed in black and covered to the toe in 50 deg weather. Sun and surf is what they want. Sand between the toes what a feeling. Go girls.

      • 5thDrawer

        Yes. That too. :-))) It’s why Saudis visited Lebanon, and why I live on any beach I can find. ;-)

  • 5thDrawer

    Only people who push ‘market-for-profit’ thinking may see this as a bad thing … that supposed ‘need’ to always have more people to sell to. But for the planet in general, and possibly for human survival on it, it is surely a good thing, and may indeed be the results of overcrowding, with a genetically-recognized lack of sustainable food supplies, on top of a growing chemical mix of pollutants we have created changing the male sperm-counts – a factor not noted well here as a ‘fertility-rate’ item.
    We don’t yet understand all the ‘coding’ in the DNA. But even in early ‘humanoid’ development there seems to have been a down-turn which left only possibly 2000 humans in development in Africa.
    General human education has also brought awareness of situations no-one wants to bring a child into. Who really wants to see their progeny being killed off in some dumb-ass war, or subjected to mean living conditions all their sorry lives – whether by environment or by despot? Better to enjoy one’s own time as much as possible, in the reality of it’s finality – a conscious decision attainable easily with the understanding we now have in medical sciences.
    Indeed, the basic function of all parts of the human body are now known, and we spend more time trying to fix problems of them with various diseases – or recently, ‘printing out’ replacement parts – a combining of individual sciences as marvellous as it is seemingly other-worldly.
    And maybe slowly, finally, ‘the people’ are beginning to realize life can be good without some megalomaniac harping at them that it is necessary to propagate for ‘God’ when all he wants is cannon-fodder.

    • master09

      Girls are just waking up to the life they would live for the rest of life. It gets really hot dressed in black and covered to the toe in 50 deg weather. Sun and surf is what they want. Sand between the toes what a feeling. Go girls.

      • 5thDrawer

        Yes. That too. :-))) It’s why Saudis visited Lebanon, and why I live on any beach I can find. ;-)

  • disqus_e68VGiBKGC

    if that what you think about the saudi and the gulf girls you should see them what they do in the western country they are a real slags covered up till toe that is only in there home land check them out

    • master09

      yes do I know it been ther done a 1.2.3.4.5.6 or so..the actions they do in the west is what 90% want…

  • disqus_e68VGiBKGC

    if that what you think about the saudi and the gulf girls you should see them what they do in the western country they are a real slags covered up till toe that is only in there home land check them out

    • master09

      yes do I know it been ther done a 1.2.3.4.5.6 or so..the actions they do in the west is what 90% want…

  • IraniAngel

    hahahaha do anybody recall that funny guy who claimed a while ago that having a lot of kids was a typical thing that muslims do? well maybe he wasnt just funny… maybe he was just stupid

  • IraniAngel

    hahahaha do anybody recall that funny guy who claimed a while ago that having a lot of kids was a typical thing that muslims do? well maybe he wasnt just funny… maybe he was just stupid

  • Hannibal

    Finally… Good news. That will alleviate poverty and improves education and opportunities.

    • IraniAngel

      indeed this is good news due to another reason too.. this means that in furture one is actually able to have a seat in the subway of tehrangel

  • Hannibal

    Finally… Good news. That will alleviate poverty and improves education and opportunities.

    • IraniAngel

      indeed this is good news due to another reason too.. this means that in furture one is actually able to have a seat in the subway of tehrangel

  • Btru2u

    New world orders plan to cull the population by strategic ways , including , food additives ,chemtrails, poisoning, and murder.

  • Btru2u

    New world orders plan to cull the population by strategic ways , including , food additives ,chemtrails, poisoning, and murder.