Christians have the lowest birth rate of all religious groups in Israel, official statistics reveal.
Christian women have on average two children, which is far lower than the statistic for Jewish women who have 2.9 and Muslim women who have 3.8. These statistics come from a new report by the Central Bureau of Statistics, an office of the Israeli government.
It reveals just how sharply birth rates have dropped in the Holy Land’s Christian communities in recent decades — in 1960 the corresponding figure was 4.6. This results in a Christian population that is failing to keep up with Israel’s population growth. In 1949, 2.9% of Israelis were Christian, a figure that dropped to 2.3% in 1972 and now to 2.1% (154,500 people).
The report reveals just how sharp the contrast in birth rates is between Christians — four out of five are Arabs — and the rest of the Arab population, which is Muslim. The average birth rate for Muslim women is just over 4. This means that while almost one in ten Israeli Arabs is currently Christian, this figure is set to drop.
The result is that the growth rate of the Christian population was just 1% in 2007, compared with 2.5% in 2000 and approximately 5% during the 1990s.
So what is going on here? One of the most popular explanations in the Christian community is that the downsizing of families is self-perpetuating. Fewer children means less economic burden and more money to fund their educational institutions, which tend to be better and more universally oriented than Muslim ones. In turn this means that their children tend to get higher paying jobs and then choose to have fewer children to maintain their lifestyle, or they have more opportunities to leave the country.