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Hinduism

How many Hindus are there in
the U.S. and the rest of the world?

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Number of Hindus in the world:

Estimates of the total number of Hindus in the world vary greatly:

  • 1,400 million, in "The religions of the world," (1993). 1
  • 1,175 million estimate for the year 2050 by World Christian Encyclopedia. 2
  • 1,049 million estimate for the year 2025 by World Christian Encyclopedia. 2
  • Approximately 1,000 million by the New World Encyclopedia for 2008.
  • 850 to 1,000 million, based on various sources noted by Adherents.com. 3
  • 950 to 1,000 million, by U.S. Department of State. 4
  • 965 to 971 million, by Wikipedia, based on U.S. State Department reports and Adherents.com. 3
  • 913 million by International Bulletin of Missionary Research, for 2009. 6
  • 910 million by Malaysia Hindudharma Mamandram for mid-2010. 7
  • 900 million, best estimate by Adherents.com in 2007. 2 This includes 580 million Vaishnavites; 220 million Shaivites; 22 million neo-Hindus and reform Hindus; 10 million Veerashaivas, and others. 8
  • 900 million, by World Christian Database. 9
  • 888 million by International Bulletin of Missionary Research for 2008. 10
  • 885 million by the CIA World Factbook for 2008. 7
  • 870 million by the Foreign Policy Magazine for 2007. 11
  • 811 million, World Christian-encyclopedia, for 2001. 2
  • 806 million, World-Faiths.com, undated. 12

As of mid 2010, we at www.religioustolerance.org have adopted an intermediate estimate of the world's Hindu population: 950 million.

At that number, they represent about 14% of the world's population. They are the third largest religion in the world. Only Christianity at 33% and Islam at 23% are larger.

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Estimates of the number of Hindus in the U.S.

  • According to an undated report by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University: "The estimated number of Hindus ranges from just over one million to almost 1,300,000." 14

  • The Pluralism Project also notes that: "Gaustad and Barlow write of 'well over 1 million Hindus residing in the United States,' which they arrive at by considering Asian Indian immigration data along with an estimate of non-Asian Hindus." 14

  • Sociologists Barry A. Kosmin, Seymour P. Lachman and associates at the Graduate School of the City University of New York have conducted a number of massive surveys via phone:
    • 1990: 227,000: The National Survey of Religious Identification (NRSI) asked 113,000 adult Americans for their religious identification.
    • 2001: 766,000: The American Religious Identity Survey (ARIS) involved 50,000 adult Americans. 15
    • 2004: 1,081,051: This was an ARIS prediction of the total population of Hindus. 16
    • 2008: 1.2 million: This is a second and most recent ARIS survey, taken among 50,281 American households.

  • 1999: 1.1 million was estimated by the "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches." 21

  • 2001: close to 1.5 million Lucky Severson estimated this value on the Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, originating at WNET inNew York City, and broadcast over PBS. 17

  • 2007: 2,482,141 This is an estimate by Hinduism Today using a novel approach described below. 18

  • Unknown date: 3,000,000: This is from a short report by Shoba Narayan titled "Stop building Hindu temples." She estimates that there are at least 200 Hindu temples in the U.S. for a population of "merely 3 million."

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Comments on two of the estimates of the number of U.S. Hindus:

The NRSI and ARIS surveys are believed to underestimate the number of Hindus in the U.S. Sampling was done by phone. They note that:

"... because the survey depends on telephone interviews, overcoming language barriers has proven prohibitively costly. In effect, this survey has interviewed only the English-speaking population of the US. 18

Hinduism Today based their estimate on the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. They comment:

""The 2006 [American Community] Survey, which was released in October, 2007, counted 2,482,141 Asian Indians. This includes those of Indian origin coming from countries such as Trinidad, Kenya, Surinam and Fiji. To update this figure for 2008, we must consider the average annual growth rate for Asian Indians. In the year 2000, the decennial census counted 1,678,765 Asian Indians; the Survey estimated 2,482,141 in 2006, which works out to an annual growth rate of about 6.8 percent. Using that growth rate to extrapolate the 2006 Survey result two years, we calculate 2,831,190 Asian Indians in 2008. Assuming 81% of these Asian Indians are Hindus, just as in India, we conclude that of the 2,831,190 Asian Indians, 2,290,000 are Hindus--qed! But despite the compelling logic of this analysis, Hinduism Today has never seen it published elsewhere." 18,20

Thus we suggest that:

  • The ARIS surveys certainly underestimate the total number of Hindus in the U.S. because their telephone surveyors probably experienced extensive communication problems with many Hindu families and were unable to collect data from non-English speaking households.

  • The Hinduism Today estimate may be inaccurate because:
    • It assumed that followers of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, etc. in India are equally likely to emmigrate to the U.S..
    • It assumed that the immigrants have retained their Hindu affiliation since arriving in the U.S. and have not abandoned religious faith or adopted another religion.
    • It counted only Hindus who emigrated from other countries; it did not account for Americans of born in the U.S. who have adopted Hinduism.

Our wild guess is that there are probably about 1.5 million Hindus in the U.S. If this estimate is low, it would certainly be correct in the near future because the Hindu population is increasing rapidly.

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Hindus in Canada:

Unlike the U.S. which does not tabulate individuals' religion, the Canadian census asks people what their religion is. Statistics Canada reported that Canadians identified themselves as Hindus (0.% of the total population) during the 1991 census. Unfortunately, a census is taken only once a decade, so the next survey will be in 2011. Those figures are believed to be an under-estimate, because some Hindus may be reluctant to reveal their religious adherence.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Peter B. Clarke, Ed., "The Religions of the World: Understanding the Living Faiths," Marshall Editions Limited: USA (1993). Page 125.
  2. David A. Barrett, "Global statistics for all religions: 2001 AD," World Christian Encyclopedia, (2001), Page 16 to 18, at: http://www.bible.ca/
  3. "Major religions of the world, ranked by number of adherents," Adherents.com. at: http://www.adherents.com/
  4. "List of religious populations: Four largest religions," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. "Hinduism by country," Wikipedia, 2010-JUN-04, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  6. David B. Barrett & Todd M. Johnson, "Statistical overview....," International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 2009-JAN, at: http://ockenga.gordonconwell.edu/
  7. "World Hindu Population," Malaysia Hindudharma Mamandram, at: http://www.mamandram.org/
  8. "Hinduism," Adherents.com, at: http://www.adherents.com/
  9. "World Christian Encyclopedia," in "List of religious populations," Wikipedia, 2010-JUN-14, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  10. "Status of global mission, presence and activities, AD 1800-2025," International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 32, #1, at: http://www.house2harvest.org/
  11. "The List: The world's fastest-growing religions," Foreign Policy magazine, 2007-MAY-14, at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/
  12. J. Cordeaux, "Hinduism," at: http://www.world-faiths.com/Hinduism/hinduism.htm
  13. "Hinduism," New World Encyclopedia, ™" 2008-AUG-29, at: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/
  14. "Statistics," The Pluralism Project, Harvard University, at: http://pluralism.org/
  15. B.A. Kosmin, et al., "Self described religious identification of U.S. adult population, ARIS, 1990-2001, at: Google documents, http://docs.google.com/
  16. "Top twenty religions in the United States, 2001, (self-identification, ARIS," Anherents.com, at: http://www.adherents.com/
  17. Lucky Severson, "Hindus in America," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, WNET, 2001-AUG-17, at: http://www.sree.net/
  18. "Statistics: Nearly 2.3 million Hindus estimated in America," SAJA Forum, 2007-DEC-24, at: http://www.sajaforum.org/
  19. Shoba Narayan, "Stop building Hindu temples," GaramChai.com, undated, at: http://www.garamchai.com/
  20. "So, how many Hindus are there in the US?," Hinduism Today, 2008-JAN/FEB, at: http://www.hinduismtoday.com/
  21. "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches," National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., (1999).



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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010JUN-14
Latest update: 2010-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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