This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Muslims Represent About 1% of the U.S. Population

The Pew Research Center recently released its latest estimates of the Muslim population in the United States. This is not an easy task, of course, since the U.S. Census does not ask about religion, neither on the short-form nor on the American Community Survey. In a paper published many years ago, I explored some of the shortcomings of estimating the Muslim population, and also some of the ways in which these numbers might be inferred. My conclusion back then was as follows:
The overall numbers of Muslims estimated by this method - 2.5 million in 1990 and 3.4 million in 2000 - are slightly higher than the results from survey data, and suggest that the numbers for each state are reasonable. albeit probably maximum, representations of the actual numbers of Muslims in those states.
Those researchers familiar with the U.S. Muslim population may not be surprised to see the clusters of Muslims in the New York-New Jersey area, the Washington, D.C., area and the upper Midwest-Great Lakes.
Using estimates drawn from their own surveys of religious identification, and then applying those demographics to Census Bureau, the Pew Research Center has generated slightly smaller estimates of the U.S. Muslim population than produced by my methods, but the geographic distribution is essentially the same:
[B]ased on our own survey and demographic research, as well as outside sources, Pew Research Center estimates that there were about 3.45 million Muslims of all ages living in the U.S. in 2017, and that Muslims made up about 1.1% of the total U.S. population. 
Muslims are not evenly distributed around the country. Some metro areas, such as Washington, D.C., have sizable Muslim communities. Likewise, certain states, such as New Jersey, are home to two or three times as many Muslim adults per capita as the national average. But there are also states and counties with far fewer Muslims.
One possible reason for my estimates having been higher is that I included estimates of the conversion of Americans to Islam, especially within the African-American community, but I did not assume that people were leaving Islam. However, the Pew report suggests that about the same number of people leave the religion as convert to it.

Overall, the Pew report concludes that there are still more people of Jewish origin than there are Muslims in the U.S., but at current growth rates of each group, Muslims could surpass Jews by about 2040. 

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