BY BESHEER MOHAMED
Recent political debates over Muslim immigration and related issues have prompted many people to ask how many Muslims actually live in the United States.
But coming up with an answer is not easy, in part because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask questions about religion, meaning there is no official government count of the U.S. Muslim population.
Still, based 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 in the U.S. are not as numerous as the number of Americans who identify as Jewish by religion, according to our estimate. At the same time, our projections suggest that the U.S. Muslim population will grow much faster than the country’s Jewish population.
By 2040, Muslims will replace Jews as the nation’s second-largest religious group after Christians. And by 2050, the U.S. Muslim population is projected to reach 8.1 million, or 2.1% of the nation’s total population — nearly twice the share of today.
The latest estimate combines information from our 2017 survey of U.S. Muslims — which reported on the prevalence of Muslims among immigrants and other demographic groups — with official Census Bureau data on the number of people in these groups.
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.
Since our first estimate of the size of the Muslim American population, the number of U.S. Muslims has been growing rapidly, albeit from a relatively low base.
When we first conducted a study of Muslim Americans in 2007, we estimated that there were 2.35 million Muslims of all ages (including 1.5 million adults) in the U.S.
By 2011, the number of Muslims had grown to 2.75 million (including 1.8 million adults). Since then, the Muslim population has continued to grow at a rate of roughly 100,000 per year, driven both by higher fertility rates among Muslim Americans as well as the continued migration of Muslims to the U.S.
Religious conversions haven’t had a large impact on the size of the U.S. Muslim population, largely because about as many Americans convert to Islam as leave the faith.
Indeed, while about one-in-five American Muslim adults were raised in a different faith tradition and converted to Islam, a similar share of Americans who were raised Muslim now no longer identify with the faith.
* Besheer Mohamed is a senior researcher focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.