Number of Christians Rises, But Their Share of World Population Stays Stable
The number of Christians in the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years, but they comprise about the same share (32%) of the population.
There are 2.18 billion Christians around the world, up from about 600 million in 1910, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).
Taken as a whole, Christians are still by far the world’s largest religious group. Muslims, the second-largest group, make up a little less than a quarter of the world’s population.
This apparent stability in the percentage of the global population that is Christian masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.
At the same time, Christianity has grown enormously in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the beginning of the 20th century. The share of the population that is Christian in sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010, while in the Asia-Pacific region it rose from 3% to 7%. Christianity today – unlike a century ago – is truly a global faith. Read more
Bruce Drake is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.