Birth Rates Falling Dramatically in Muslim Middle East

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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The first examples, Libya and Tunisia, are not that definitive. Tunisia was somewhat on the secular side by the standards of the Arab world. Libya. less so, but under Gaddafi it was still leaning away.

In 1973, the average Libyan woman had 7.6 children and married at the age of 19. About three decades later, in 2005, those figures had been transformed into 2.9 and 29 respectively. In Tunisia, we can identify a similar development. Average age for first marriage among women was 22 in 1973, a number that just like in Libya became 29 in 2005.

If we look at Yemen, however, the graph (see above) takes a slightly different turn. Between 1959 and 1980, not much changed in terms of average age for first marriage among women. But the number of children grew drastically from 7.3 to 9. It was not until 1984 that things turned – in 2004 women married at the age of 22 and gave birth to 5.9 children on average.

Interestingly, the West Bank and Gaza have seen a relatively stable curve. In 1968, women entered into marriage at the age of 22, and had 8 children. Almost 40 years later, marriage still happened around the same time, most women were now 23. But the big change took place on the children per woman quota; a stable decrease from 8 children to 4.8.

That’s a sharp drop. Some of it may be trickle down culture and standards of living. And in the West Bank and Gaza, the loss of easy access to Israel no doubt robbed them of some useful goodies.

While Muslim countries in Asia have retained high birth rates, Muslim countries in the Middle East are declining sharply. Even Saudi Arabia, which has the wealth, extended families and the conservatism, and which denies women basic educational and work opportunities, went down from 6 to below 3 in just a decade.

The debate over the reasons for the decline is still ongoing and there are few easy answers. But the decline is clearly real. Even when women marry early, the number of children decreases.

  • Softly Bob

    If Muslim birth rates in the Middle East are dropping then this is very good news indeed. Now all we need to do is to get the birth rates of Muslims everywhere to drop.

    • chan chan

      The birth rate of muslims in europe is already lower than the countries they come from, but still higher than the indigenous europeans.

  • timmysfriend

    Best news story of the day!

  • Biff Henderson

    My concern is that when the plop of potential jihadis drop it frees resources for an increasingly popular upswing in the mood of Muslims to engage in offensive jihad. There will be fewer Koranimals in the fray but they will be better armed and equipped with a support network freed of the need to fill empty bellies that do not exist.

    • MarilynA

      If the US and the UN weren’t feeding their families empty bellies via various world hunger and aid programs these animals would be so busy trying to feed their families they wouldn’t have the time no energy to make Jihad against the hands that are feeding them.

  • http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/ Nixys

    I certainly hope this is a trend that won’t be quickly and easily reversed.

  • Seek

    Who said all the news from that part of the world is bad? As Michael Ledeen likes to say: “Faster, please.”

  • Le Fox

    This has been known by AEI since 2011. It’s good news, but so long as Islam exists, we will still have an issue.

    • hady halawy

      And christianity , and all the other religions too.

  • UCSPanther

    It seems that the phenomenon of the incredible shrinking population is hitting all over the globe. We all know about the declining birth rates in Western Nations, the shrinking rates in China and Japan, and now, over in the Middle East.

  • A Z

    I expect that the reason for lower birth rates are economic not cultural. If they come into money they will up the birth rate. Especially if chauvinists like Erdogan are urging them on. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is exhorting Turks to have 3 kids.

    Remember in Tunisia that a husband and father could not make a living to feed his family. He was a pushcart vendor or street vendor and he was very distraught at not being able to provide for his family.

    That is my take on Tunisia.

    Libya might be a case where they are too busy kiIIing one another to spend much time raising large families. They ave too many scores to settle.

    Saudi Arabia is cracking down on immigrants because unemployment among Saudis is slightly greater than 12%

    I think it is economics more than anything.

    Now Gaza is a special case. The Palestinians are being given money hand over fist. So they have no reason to fit family size to their work effort. They simply do not work.

  • Charlotta Jones

    Good. Less future jihadis and breeding stock