Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed

"When you look at pictures from the Arab spring, you see these gigantic crowds of young men, and it confirms the impression that the Muslim Middle East has a gigantic youth bulge -- hundreds of millions of young people with little to do. But that view is becoming obsolete. As Nicholas Eberstadt and Apoorva Shah of the American Enterprise Institute point out, over the past three decades, the Arab world has undergone a little noticed demographic implosion." - David Brooks, New York Times

Key Facts:

  • Iran's fertility rate declined by more than 70 percent between 1975 and 2005. Its level is comparable with the New England states, the region in America with the lowest fertility.
  • A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago.
  • Algeria, Bangladesh, and Morocco all have fertility levels corresponding to the state of Texas, while Indonesia's is almost identical to Arkansas'.
  • Lebanon's fertility level is lower than New York State's.


Read the full working paper here.

"The critical determinant of actual fertility levels in Muslim and non-Muslim societies alike at the end of the day would appear to be attitudinal and volitional, rather than material and mechanistic." Eberstadt and Shah note that access to birth control has not been a highly significant factor in this trend.

Nicholas Eberstadt is a political economist and demographer at the American Enterprise Institute. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank, State Department, USAID, and the Census Bureau. Eberstadt is available for interviews and can be reached through [email protected].

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