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Hoover Institution: Fertility Decline in the Muslim World

Authors: Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and Apoorva Shah
June 1, 2012


In this policy review by the Hoover Institution, Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah discuss the current demographic changes taking place in the global Muslim population.

There remains a widely perceived notion — still commonly held within intellectual, academic, and policy circles in the West and elsewhere — that "Muslim" societies are especially resistant to embarking upon the path of demographic and familial change that has transformed population profiles in Europe, North America, and other "more developed" areas (un terminology). But such notions speak to a bygone era; they are utterly uninformed by the important new demographic realities that reflect today's life patterns within the Arab world, and the greater Islamic world as well.

Throughout the Ummah, or worldwide Muslim community, fertility levels are falling dramatically for countries and subnational populations — and traditional marriage patterns and living arrangements are undergoing tremendous change. While these trends have not gone entirely unnoticed, no more than a handful of pioneering scholars and observers have as yet drawn attention to them and their potential significance.1 In this essay we will detail the dimensions of these changes in fertility patterns within the Muslim world, examine some of their correlates and possible determinants, and speculate about some of their implications.

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