Fertility rates in India are more closely related to education levels and socio-economic development within a state than to religious beliefs, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of government data and research evidence.
The evidence we analyze shows that wealthier families, states with better health facilities, and more literate women have lower fertility rates in India.
Globally, there is little evidence to link religion to fertility rates, with poorer and conflict-ridden states and countries with lower women’s empowerment reporting lower fertility rates. higher population growth.
When the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India released fertility rates for India’s population last year, the conversation was hijacked by the difference in population growth rates between religions.
Several newspapers pointed out that the data showed that Muslim women had higher fertility rates than non-Muslims and that the percentage of Muslims in the population was steadily increasing.
This implicit suggestion that Muslims have more children than other religious communities has lacked data that shows how population growth rates and the Total Fertility Index (TFR) vary widely among Indian states.
TFR appears to be more closely related to per capita income, health care, and other basic facilities in this state.
Development and fertility: the case of Kerala and the UP
Compare, for example, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh (UP). In 2011, Uttar Pradesh’s TFR, at 3.3, was higher than the Indian average of 2.4, and higher than Kerala’s TFR, at 1.8, according to census data.
The Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh increased by 25.19%, while the Muslim population of Kerala increased by 12.83% between 2001 and 2011. During the same period, the Hindu population increased by 18, 9% in Uttar Pradesh and 2.8% in Kerala.
The higher growth rates of Muslims in the northern states are “more or less part of a northern culture than a Muslim culture,” said NC Saxena, the former secretary of the Planning Commission. India.
The states with the highest fertility rates in India are all found in northern and central India: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan (TFR 2.9), Jharkhand (2.8) and Chhattisgarh .
These overall fertility rates seem more related to the development of the state. For example, Kerala has a literacy rate of 93.9%, compared to 69.7% in Uttar Pradesh in 2011.
In the same year, 99.7% of mothers in Kerala received medical care during childbirth, compared to 48.4% of mothers in Uttar Pradesh. In addition, 74.9% of women were over 21 in Kerala at the time of marriage, compared to only 47.6% in Uttar Pradesh.
Another way to interpret population growth rates is the difference between poor states and rich states. The Empowered Action Group (EAG) states, which include India’s poorest – Rajasthan, UP, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have higher population growth.
Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the EAG states increased by 21%, compared to 15% for the rest of India. Yet decadal population growth rates, even in the EAG states, have declined from the decadal growth rate of 24.99% between 1991 and 2001.
One of the reasons for higher Muslim fertility within a state could be due to factors related to wealth.
Information from the survey showed that families in the lower wealth quintiles have more children than the wealthiest families.
For example, in Bihar, women in the lowest wealth quintile have a TFR of 5.08 while women in the highest quintile have a TFR of 2.12. The same is true for a richer state, like Maharashtra, where the lowest wealth quintile has an TFR of 2.78, compared to the richest wealth quintile with a TFR of 1.74.
On average, Muslims across India are poorer than Hindus, with average monthly spending per household per capita of Rs 833, compared to Rs 888 for Hindus, Rs 1,296 for Christians and Rs 1,498 for Sikhs , according to a 2013 national survey report based on data from 2009-2010.
Indian women have more children than their counterparts in many Muslim countries
There is little international evidence of the correlation between religion and fertility rates.
For example, according to World Bank data, in 2014 Bangladesh, India’s predominantly Muslim neighbor, had an TFR of 2.2. Iran, another Muslim country, has a TFR of 1.7, below the replacement level, meaning the current population cannot be replaced at the current rate of population growth.
In India, the growth rate of Muslims is declining faster than the growth rate of Hindus.
The 10-year population growth rate of Muslims fell 4.9 percentage points from 29.5 percent in 2001 to 24.6 percent in 2011, while that of Hindus fell 3.5 percentage points from from 20.3% to 16.8%.
In 2001, 65.1% of all Hindus over the age of 7 were literate, while 59.1% of Muslims were literate, according to census data. In 2011, the percentage of literate Hindus rose to 73.3%, while that of Muslims rose to 68.5%.
The fertility rates of populations with higher fertility, such as low-income families and Muslims, decline more rapidly than other groups, as methods of contraception and education spread to these groups, said an expert.