In the comments of the recent post on Muslim fertility, Dr. Charlton expresses skepticism about the validity of the study reported. He writes that we should assume that a peer-reviewed study has been conducted by someone who is dishonest or incompetent. I've been reading and conducting research for almost 20 years and agree with his view. That doesn't mean that every study is actually bad, but the publication process in the social sciences is sufficiently corrupt to cause one to be skeptical. This is one reason that I go to the original data if I can.
Let's do that now with fertility data. I went to the Population Reference Bureau and obtained 2011 total fertility rates (TFR) for Muslim-majority countries. TFR is an estimate of the total number of children the average woman will have based on current birth rates.
2011 Total Fertility Rate
Burkina Faso 5.8
Sierra Leone 5.0
Palestinian territory 4.6
Western Sahara 4.3
Saudi Arabia 2.9
United Arab Emirates 1.8
While the rates are impressively low in some countries--Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia jump out at me--Dr. Charlton is right: the picture is not as rosy as Eberstadt (the author) suggests. While Eberstadt does write that he is focusing on countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa, there are still many countries with high TFRs. Just focusing on the large countries, we could mention Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (which has 180 million people). And Eberstadt does say that, "Throughout the Ummah, fertility levels are falling dramatically." That makes it sounds like things are getting good globally, but look at those sub-Saharan numbers. Nigeria alone has 75 milllion people. With a TFR of 5.7, the country will double in size in a generation. (Nigeria's annual growth rate is 2.27 percent, so using the rule of 72, the country should double in size in 31.7 years.)
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