Published in The Economic Times | By Rema Nagarajan |On January 13, 2018
The average number of children born to a woman over her lifetime, or total fertility rate (TFR), has dropped below replacement for all religious communities barring Hindus and Muslims. The fertility rate of Hindu households fell from 2.8 in the last survey in 2004-05 to 2.1, which is the level at which a population is said to be able to replace itself from generation to generation without migration. The fertility rate of Muslim households fell from 3.4 to 2.6. This was revealed in the latest religion-wise data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2015-16.
The community with the lowest fertility rate of 1.2 was the one with the highest level of education, especially for women, the Jains. This was followed by Sikhs with a fertility rate of 1.6, Buddhists or Neo Buddhists with 1.7 and Christians with 2. India’s overall TFR was 2.2.
Predictably, when looking at the fertility rate of the different wealth quintiles (one-fifths of the population), the section with the lowest income had the highest number of children at 3.2 and the richest had the least, 1.5. Scheduled tribes, the least developed among social categories, had the highest fertility rate of 2.5, followed by 2.3 for scheduled castes and 2.2 for other backward classes. The upper castes had the lowest fertility rate of 1.9.
The younger the women, the lower the mean number of children born to them, evidence of the progress over the last two decades in bringing down the total fertility rate. The TFR for Muslim women aged 40-49 was the highest at 4.2 and it was the lowest for Jain women of the same age at 2.2. Hindu women of this age group had the second highest TFR of 3.1. The median age at first birth among women aged 25-49 years was lowest for Muslim and Hindu women, 21.3 years and 21.6 years respectively.