April 7, 2015

Christianity poised to continue its shift from Europe to Africa

The global Christian population has been shifting southward for at least a century and is expected to continue to do so over the next four decades, according to new demographic projections from the Pew Research Center. Overall, the share of Christians in the world is expected to remain flat. But Europe’s share of the the world’s Christians will continue to decline while sub-Saharan Africa’s will increase dramatically.

Nearly half of the world’s Christians already reside in Africa and the Latin America-Caribbean region. By 2050, according to the Pew Research study, those two regions will be home to more than six-in-ten of the world’s followers of Jesus, with just a quarter of Christians living in Europe and North America.

Global Share of Christians by Region, 2010-2050

This was not always the case. In 1910, for instance, Europe was home to roughly two-thirds (66%) of the world’s Christians, with North America a distant second with 15%.

In 2050, nearly four-in-ten of the world’s Christians (38%) are expected to be living in sub-Saharan Africa, up from 24% in 2010 and less than 2% in 1910.

In addition, by 2050, five of the 10 largest Christian populations in the world – Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda – will be in Africa, which had three of the 10 largest Christian populations in 2010.

By contrast, 35 years from now, the share of global Christians who call Europe home will have dropped to roughly 16% (from 26% in 2010). In addition, only 10% of the world’s Christians will be living in North America, down from 12% in 2010.

The share of the global Christian population in Latin America and the Caribbean also is forecast to drop slightly, from about 25% to 23%. But it will be the region with the second-largest number of Christians, behind only sub-Saharan Africa.

The share of Christians in the Asia-Pacific region, now about 13%, is expected be the same by 2050. But uncertainty over the data from China (which has 1.3 billion people) ultimately could change the 2050 estimate.

The biggest factor in determining the future global distribution of Christians is population growth, which in turn is driven by factors such as fertility rates. Sub-Saharan Africa’s overall population, which is young and tends to have more children than people in other regions, is expected to more than double between 2010 and 2050, from 823 million to 1.9 billion.

Fertility Rates of Christians Worldwide

At the same time, Europe’s overall population, which is older and has the lowest fertility rate of any region, is expected to shrink, from 743 million in 2010 to 696 million in 2050.

Religious switching also plays a role. In Europe, the share of people who say they are Christian is expected to drop from roughly 75% in 2010 to 65% in 2050, with the number of those switching out of Christianity playing a significant role, along with immigration of members of other religious groups and other factors.

Likewise, the percentage of North Americans who self-identify as Christian is expected to drop from 77% in 2010 to 66% in 2050, with similar factors at play (including some people leaving Christianity and becoming religiously unaffiliated).

Despite a decrease in the share of Americans who are Christian, the U.S. is projected to remain the country with the world’s largest Christian population, with an estimated 262 million Christians in 2050.

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Demographics, Europe, Population Geography, Religious Affiliation, Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Photo of David Masci

    is a senior writer/editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

6 Comments

  1. Pradeep G10 months ago

    Its one thing to agree with you on the trend observed so far but cant concurr with the predicted growth in Europe. We cant miss out on Revivals and the outpouring of the LORD in HIS time.As the LORD says HE will build the church. So we pray and also work towards helping people look unto JESUS. Offcourse, this study is certainly relevant for the evangelistic missions.
    Truly appreciate your efforts.
    Regards,
    PG.

  2. Bloodmoon Steve1 year ago

    This here was an informative and important piece of information here. That it had a deep importance there. Have a nice day. Peace out. Cheers! – Bloodmoon Steve

  3. Christian1 year ago

    See Cultural or Social Maxism

    The Frankfurt School is a neo-Marxist school which originated around 1923 at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt where Freudian psychoanalysis was an important influence on critical theory. One example is the influential book The Authoritarian Personality where psychoanalytic ideas are used to pathologize Western love and pride of Christianity, the family, and the nation.

    It’s no surprise that Christianity is on a HEAVY decline in Western cultures indoctrinated with the censorship of political correctness, yet still on the rise places elsewhere open to the gospel.

    1. Chris Bennett1 year ago

      A profound observation. I’m glad some Christians are beginning to realise the power and influence of the Frankfort School. They have almost written our cultural trends for us!

  4. theG3NERAL1 year ago

    The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” – Isaiah 40:8

  5. John Z1 year ago

    This reminds me of the parable Jesus told about the wedding feast. Those first invited were too busy, and the invitations went out into the highways and biways…