Report: Christians are half of world's migrants

Those who have moved from their country of birth and are now living permanently in a different country.

March 8, 2012 | Web First
By Chris Herlinger | Ecumenical News International
New York

Christians comprise half of the world's 214 million migrants, those who have moved from their country of birth and are now living permanently in a different country, a new study has concluded.

The study, "Faith on the Move: The Religious Affiliation of International Migrants," by the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, released March 8, concluded 106 million Christians constitute 49 percent of the world's migrants. 

At nearly 60 million, Muslims are the second-largest group of those living permanently outside their nation of origin, some 27 percent of migrants, the study said.

However, the report found that in terms of percentages by religious groups, Jews have the highest percentage level of migration. Twenty-five percent of Jews live in different countries from their birth. By contrast, five percent of Christians and four percent of Muslims have migrated across international borders.

Less than three percent of other groups have migrated, and are generally underrepresented among those migrating. As an example, Hindus constitute 10 to 15 percent of the world's population but only make up about five percent of international migrants, the study said.

The report defines an international migrant as someone living for more than a year in a country other than the one in which the migrant was born.

Other key findings:

•In the 27 countries of the European Union, Christian immigrants, some 26 million, outnumber Muslim immigrants, nearly 13 million, the study said. But the numbers of the two groups are closer "when migration within the European Union is excluded," according to the report.

•The United States is the world's leading destination for Christian migrants. Of the 43 million foreign-born people living in the US as of 2010, nearly three-quarters, some 32 million, are Christian.

•Predominately Roman Catholic Mexico is the largest single country of origin for migrants who identify as Christian, with most of those now living in the neighboring United States.

"In fact," the report said, "the U.S. has received about as many migrants (of all religions) from Mexico alone (more than 12 million, including both legal immigrants and unauthorized ones) as any other nation has received from all sources combined."

The report is available at

--Mar. 8, 2012

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