13 November 2018
Lund, Sweden

Religious demography

Anne Goujon was invited to give a seminar on the scope and purpose of religious demography at Lund University.

Autumn in Lund, Sweden, Sweden © Eudaemon | Dreamstime.com

Autumn in Lund, Sweden, Sweden © Eudaemon | Dreamstime.com

Under the title "Religious demography: What is it about and why do we need it?" Anne Goujon will give a semiar at the Department of Economic History, Lund University
School of Economics and Management on 13 November 2018, 12PM. The seminar is part of the Centre for Economic Demography (CED) seminar series at the University.

Goujon's main research interests are the analysis and projections at macro-level of background characteristics of the population acquired during childhood that rarely change once an individual has emancipated from parental control such as education and religion. She has applied the methodology of multi-state population projections to many settings showing through scenarios the impact of the long-term dynamics of demographic change on these characteristics, and reversely the impact of heterogeneous demographic behaviors of these groups on the overall population.

For more information please visit the event website


The relevance of scientific knowledge on a population's religious composition is essential to understand the challenges faced by societies today. Quantifying a country’s religious landscapes is not about setting a benchmark about a certain level of religious diversity deemed acceptable or threatening, but rather about testing what level of religious diversity can be expected when different stories are followed. 

We have used in several settings multi-dimensional projections to analyze some exploratory scenarios concerning the religious distribution of the population for the next few decades. The relative religious homogeneity of many Western societies has been slowly changing into a more diversified religious landscape through two main forces: The first one is that of secularization. As an effect of modernization and rationalization, religion gradually lost the overarching importance in people’s lives, and religion, while still part of the cultural identity of most, has become more of an individual characteristic. The second main trend is the increased religious diversity shaped by migration. More recently, the war that erupted in 2011 in Syria caused the displacement of populations who flew to neighboring countries and to Europe. Other conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, as well as dire poverty lead more people to look for living options elsewhere. In the past 30 years, the people in the several migration movements to Europe brought with them religious traditions that had been scarce in the population, particularly Islam. As a result, religious diversity has increased.

Both trends of secularization and religious diversification that we are observing nowadays are unpreceded in the recent history of most European countries and are shaping their religious landscape, as well as the global environment in terms of national policies and international settings. They are quantifiable, as data are available to estimate the number of individuals in several large religious categories. Data also permit to assess the demographic behaviors – in terms of fertility (mortality) and migration – of the different religious groups, allowing us to project the religious composition according to scenarios/narratives about what possible future development/trends might be. I will present in my talk a case-study (see paper attached) that aimed at quantifying the share of the main religious affiliations in Austria in 2016 and, based on several scenarios, seeks to derive potential middle-term futures for Austria to 2046.

All scenarios envisaged lead to increased religious diversity. One direct implication seems to be that the co-existence of the different religious groups will require the attention of stakeholders. In the public debate, religious diversity is often considered as a constraint for the peaceful coexistence of, and dialogue among, different communities and social groups, particularly if secularism is seen as one of the core values and rules of conduct in European societies, with religion broadly perceived as private. This view is challenged by the presence of visible religious minorities that is often seen as a threat to Europe's secular values and immigrants' non-traditional religiosity as an obstacle to integration, although this does not necessarily have to be the case. The growth of minority religions is not solely driven by the factor of immigration but also by the relatively strong demographic momentum of particular migrant groups with youthful age structures and high fertility rates. Differences in demographic behavior are not solely about religion. Especially socio-economic characteristics such as educational attainment or female labor force participation explain most of the differences in fertility between religious groups. Furthermore, immigrant generation and country of origin play a big role. 

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Last edited: 13 November 2018


Anne Goujon

Research Scholar

World Population

T +43(0) 2236 807 530

IIASA Project

Population Dynamics and Global Human Capital

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313