Religious demography of India

Had an interesting debate while in India recently about the religious make-up of the country. Some people were suggesting that since partition (1947) the proportion of Muslims in modern day India had gone from 3% of the total population to around 20%, and that Hinduism is on the decline.

Fortunately the Indian Census Bureau runs a census every decade asking for religious persuasion, and has done so since 1881. Back then they covered the whole of sub-continental India. So what does the data say? It says that by 2001 the muslim population of India was exactly the same proportion as it was in 1941 – 13.4%.  Indian religions were of a similar proportion in 1941 (84%) and 1991 (88%), and Hindu’s specifically made up just over 80% of modern day India (down from 84% in 1961). [data: india religion]

India religion

The rebottle is that the numbers have actually gone up quite astoundingly, and the drop is more serious after partition when Pakistan and India were separated. Ok,  let’s have a look at the data then.

If you take the whole of sub-continental India (dashed lines below), then in 1941 74% of the population identified as coming from Indian religions and 24% identified as Muslim. (Rolled into the Indian religion is Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh as I’ve grabbed the older census data from CPS india (see annex 1). You can now cut the pie two ways, look at the whole sub-continent (dashed lines) or just modern day India (whole lines)

india religion2

1. Look at the shares across the whole sub-continent after partition. The split is 73/25 in 1951 and 68/30 by 1991. But this is now looking at India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in total – countries with very different growth rates, both for GDP and Population.

2. Look at the shares in modern day India. The split here is 87/10 in 1951 and 88/12 by 1991. Looking just at Hindu’s, you’d get 84/11 in 1961 and 80/13 by 2001.

However you flip and turn this data, not a whole lot happens. There’s a slight change following partition, Indian religions add 3% to their share, while the Muslim proportion drops by the same. One could get excited about the sub-continental demographic change, but that has little bearing on India as a country, and equally the proportion of each religion is relatively constant over this long time period, although other religions are making inroads.


Sources: 1881-1991 Annex 1
1961-2001 Table 1.8
2001 Table 21

Forget the Big Mac index, try penguin books instead

[Cross-posted from the New School Economic Review – original here]

Wandering about New Delhi I am always struck by the way that the markets are organised. Special areas are set aside in each residential quarter (or ‘colony’ in the vernacular) and people know what markets are good for what. So off we went to get some books at Aurobindo Market, and if you want price disparities, forget about the Big Mac index and have a look at the price of books. Books are homogenous products, they are easy to replicate (so piracy is usually easy) and global publishers sell the same good in all markets under the same rules (unlike McDonalds who will need to consider rent prices, franchise costs, hygiene regulation and local tastes).

I ended up buying a very large Penguin Classic, Kautilya’s The Arthashastra – think Macchiavelli meets Adam Smith but anno 300 BC in India, preceding and influencing Greek writers such as Xenophon. The total price was 599 rupees, or $13.36 US. That seemed a bit steep to me, but turns out that the same Penguin edition is $42.95 in the US. Of course $14 buys  you a lot more here than at Barnes & Noble on Union Square, but a quick check on the PPP rates suggested that what I paid for The Arthashastra was about $33 in PPP terms. It seems that Penguin is pricing this very academic book a little below par value for the world. But academic special interest books can be very expensive so I had a look at Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the next shelf. 499 rupees, so $11.19, and how much for the same book on Amazon? $14.95 RRP, but yours on-line for $8.25… The nominal price on Union Square is lower than the price in Delhi??  The PPP price of this fiction work is around $27.

That only seems really mad if you consider that the average wage of well-paid, albeit low to medium skilled, labour in Delhi (lets take a driver) is around 10,000 rupees a month: So a paperback would constitute  5% of the monthly wage.  That is almost a full days wage to buy a book. Most New Yorkers can earn the price of a book in an hour or two. So where does that leave the market? Targetting a very small niche group for educational texts – with a global price point – and an even smaller niche for fiction and general reading material, which costs more than the global price. I am told similar patterns emerge for CDs, DVDs and other entertainment material. I wonder what the founder of Penguin Books would make of this, given that:

The first Penguin paperbacks appeared in the summer of 1935 and included works by Ernest Hemingway, André Maurois and Agatha Christie. They were colour coded (orange for fiction, blue for biography, green for crime) and cost just sixpence, the same price as a packet of cigarettes. The way the public thought about books changed forever – the paperback revolution had begun.

A pack of smokes costs above $11 in New York and 100 rupees in Delhi (although the local rolled variety are much less). Book prices have a long way to go in one of these locations, if Mr. Allens intentions are to be realised.