The narrative that Muslims have too many children and are out to outbreed Hindus isn’t merely a fringe notion held by Sakshi Maharaj or the VHP. The incumbent Prime Minister held that view as Chief Minister of a large state and hasn’t mentioned a revision in his views since. It’s reasonable to assume therefore, the Hindu right’s position more or less is: each Muslim woman has at least 4 children as part of a demographic conspiracy. Is that true, though?
According to 2011 Census, 14.2% of India’s population was Muslim. Up from 13.4% in 2001. The growth rate of the Muslim population compared to Hindu population has significantly declined in the last 2 decades but it still is growing. Is that evidence for the Hindu right’s assertion?
There are a few ways to verify this. The first is of course to do a simple scatter plot of fertility rate of various states against their proportion of Muslim population; and draw a regression line through it. What happens if we do that is a near flat line — not a strong relationship at all.
The correlation coefficient between Muslims as a proportion of population and fertility rate is 0.14. Low enough to ignore it. Especially when you consider what the relationship between female illiteracy of the states and their fertility rate is.
That’s a much more powerful relationship without even looking at summary statistics. The correlation coefficient between female illiteracy and fertility is 0.67. Quite a strong correlation.
In case the Hindu right wants to make a convoluted argument that there’s possibly a second order effect, that is Muslims cause low female illiteracy which leads to high fertility, they’d be out of luck. There is negative correlation (-0.17) between female illiteracy and Muslim population. In other words, you’re more likely to see higher higher literacy in states with more Muslims.
There is also a simple back of the envelope calculation that supports the fact that Muslim women aren’t out to produce 4 children each. Consider the large states that have highest percentage of muslim population: West Bengal (27%) and Kerala(26.6%). Their fertility rates are 1.7 and 1.8 respectively. If we extend Narendra Modi’s metric of each Muslim woman producing 4 children to either of these states, their Hindu fertility rate would fall 0.84 and 0.99 respectively. That’s so obscenely low that it means Hindus are about to be reduced to half their current size or even less in a generation. For comparative scale Japan, that famously ageing and depopulating country, has a fertility rate of 1.41. Surely no one, not even VHP, thinks Hindus in Bengal are almost twice as worse compared to Japanese in terms of depopulating.
If the data above points to Muslims not outbreeding Hindus, why does their population as a percentage keep growing in comparison to Hindus? That possibly has a simpler explanation: Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These two states are India’s most populous and have above average representation of Muslim population; 19.3% and 16.9% respectively. Their fertility rates, as states, happen to be 2.6 and 3.6. Above the fertility rate of 2.4 for India; and well above that of peninsular India at 1.8. South India and as a whole has less number of Muslims as a percentage of population and lower fertility rates as a whole. If we adjust for above average Muslim presence and above average fertility rates in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand (14.5% Muslims and 2.9 TFR) what we will get is the near flat regression line of the first graph. The summary statistics of that is,
What’s disappointing is that the literature is dominated by Sociologists who take for granted Muslim women have higher fertility rate and then try to explain it. Without a simple back of the envelope calculation that’d suggest the assumption is not even valid.
 – Both Sakshi Maharaj and VHP seek 4 children per Hindu woman.
 – Modi’s speech on ‘Hum paanch, humare pachees‘
 – Data from Census
 – Changes in Fertility Rates Among Muslims in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
 – Data from Census for percentage of Muslims and SRS for state-wise fertility rate. Find the CSV of combined data here.
 – For the purpose of this calculation, non-Muslim population is assumed Hindu.
 – Muslim attitude towards family planning
 – Social Development and Demographic Changes in South India: Focus on Kerala