Numbers like these are interesting, but consider two things
1. Projecting future trends is chancy business at best, especially when it comes to birth rates
2. A car going 100 miles an hour may be slowing down faster than a car going 40 miles an hour, but it’s still traveling faster than it.
Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers.
Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.”
It’s not really unnoticed. David P. Goldman/Spengler has been talking about it for a while. To some degree we are seeing the results of growing prosperity in the Muslim world and the decline of feudal farming.
Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41% between 1975-80 and 2005-10, compared with a 33% drop for the world as a whole.
Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50% or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60% or more over these three decades.
You’ll notice that most of the countries on this list are relatively wealthy because of their oil or are adjacent to Europe. The exception here is Bangladesh which has a complicated history.
So we are seeing the effects of prosperity, a rising Middle Class and some influence leaking in from the West. As well as rising educational levels among women, particularly in Iran.
Fertility in Iran declined an astonishing 70% over the 30-year period, which Eberstadt says was “one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history.”
There you go.
Big cities in the Muslim world have seen especially sharp drops. Eberstadt notes only six states in America have lower rates than Istanbul. In Tehran and Isfahan, fertility rates are lower than those of any state in America.
So again. Urban life. Middle class. Prosperity. All having some of the same impact that they do in the West. But this declining birth rate also drives Islamism.
While the educated classes in Istanbul had fewer children, they brought in rural Turkish Muslims who supported the Islamist AKP. The result was an Islamist takeover of Turkey. The long term consequence of urban birth rate declines in places like Turkey is Islamist supremacy.
The somewhat interesting thing that he mentions is a Muslim flight from marriage.
Accompanying this fertility decline is what Eberstadt calls a “flight from marriage,” described in a paper presented last month in Doha, Qatar.
The decline of marriage in Europe is well known but striking: The female marriage rate fell in Germany from 98% to 59% from 1965 to 2000; it fell in France over that period from 99% to 61%; in Sweden from 98% to 49%; in Britain, from nearly 100% to 54%.
Marriage is also plummeting in Asia: In Japan, the percentage of women between 30 and 34 who have never married rose from 7.2% in 1970 to 26.6% in 2000; in Burma, it rose from 9.3% to 25.9%; in Thailand, from 8.1% to 16.1%; in South Korea, from 1.4% to 10.7%.
Marriage rates in the Arab world are higher, but they’re moving fast in the same direction.
What’s “astonishing,” says Eberstadt in an email explaining his findings, is that in the Arab world this move away from marriage “is by many measures already as far along as was Europe’s in the 1980s — and it is taking place at a vastly lower level of development than the corresponding flights in Europe and developed East Asia.”
That’s not entirely surprising considering that Muslim women are treated worse than European women and lose far more of their rights through marriage.
The decline of marriage in the West is more due to indulgence, but in the East it is more closely tied to the treatment of women. With fewer legal protections, Muslim women are more dependent on having some form of economic independence to avoid being dominated by their in-laws. That requires an advanced education and delays marriage and childbirth.
Add on government subsidies in oil countries and a marriage in which women give up their rights while entering into a non-monogamous relationship, and it’s not surprising that many Muslim women are opting out.