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Bahá'í statistics

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Sources such as Encyclopædia Britannica or the World Christian Encyclopedia have listed Bahá'í membership as over 7 million.[1][2] More conservative estimates produced by the Bahá'í World News Service reports a Bahá'í membership of more than 5 million worldwide, in "virtually every country" and many territories.[3] As such, the Bahá'í Faith is recognized as the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity,[4][5] and the only religion to have grown faster than the population of the world in all major areas over the last century.[6]

Membership data on a relatively new, worldwide religion are difficult to arrive at. The religion is almost entirely contained in a single, organised community, but the Bahá'í population is spread out and not in a majority anywhere.[7] Populations are not assigned a Bahá'í religious adherence by birth, as is the case with other major religions such as Islam and Christianity.[7] Few religious surveys include the Bahá'í Faith due to the high sample size required to reduce the margin of error, and those that have included the Bahá'í Faith are known to underestimate or overinflate many proportionally small groups.[8][9] Additionally, Bahá'í membership data does not break out active participation from the total number of people who have expressed their belief.

The official claim of "more than five million Bahá’ís" in the world came originally in 1991[10] and hasn't changed since.[3] The official agencies of the religion have focused on publishing more concrete data, such as numbers of local and national spiritual assemblies, countries and territories represented, languages and tribes represented, and publishing trusts.[11][3]

Definition of membershipEdit

In the 1930s the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada began requiring new adherents to sign a declaration of faith, stating their belief in Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and `Abdu'l-Bahá, and an understanding that there are laws and institutions to obey. The original purpose of signing a declaration card was to allow followers to apply for lawful exemption from active military service.[12] The signature of a card later became optional in Canada, but in the US is still used for records and administrative requirements.[13] Many countries follow the pattern of the US and Canada.

Other than signing a card and being acknowledged by a Spiritual Assembly, there is no initiation or requirement of attendance to remain on the official roll sheets. Members receive regular mailings unless they request not to be contacted.

Difficulties in enumerationEdit

The fact that the religion is diffuse and proportionally small are major barriers to demographic research by outsiders. Even in the United States, where significant resources are dedicated to gathering data, the Bahá'í Faith is often omitted from religious surveys due to the high sample size required to reduce the margin of error. In some countries the Bahá'í Faith is illegal and Bahá'ís endure some degree of persecution, making it difficult for even Bahá'ís to maintain a count., a website dedicated to collecting statistics on world religions, made the following comments about Bahá'í membership:

As with most religious groups, organizationally reported adherent counts include significant numbers of nominal members, or people who no longer actively participate, yet still identify themselves as adherents. There are valid arguments that some of the "mass conversions" have resulted in adherents with little or no acculturation into the new religious system. As is typical with a religious group made up primarily of converts, Baha'is who drift from active participation in the movement are less likely to retain nominal identification with the religion -- because it was not the religion of their parents or the majority religion of the surrounding culture. On the other hand, there are no countries in which people are automatically assigned to the Baha'i Faith at birth (as is the case with Islam, Christianity, Shinto, Buddhism, and other faiths), so their numbers aren't inflated with people who have never willingly participated in or been influenced by the religion while adults.

On balance, while official Baha'i figures are not a measure of active participants, the proportion of participating adherents among claimed adherents is thought to be higher than average among the "major religions" on this list. The Baha'i community is remarkably active and influential in religious matters on both global and local levels, especially given their relatively small numbers compared to some other religions.[7]

Most denominations make no effort at all to maintain a national membership database and must rely on local churches or surveys of the general population. Local church membership rolls are often maintained poorly because there may be no need for an official membership list (Bahá'ís at least must maintain accurate voting lists) and local congregations sometimes do not provide their denomination's membership data even when asked.

Worldwide figuresEdit

1928[14] 1949[14] 1968[11] ± 1986[11] 2006[15]
National Spiritual Assemblies 7 11 81 165 179
Local Spiritual Assemblies 102 595 6,840 18,232
Countries where the Bahá'í Faith is established:
independent countries
36 92 187 191
Localities where Bahá'ís reside 573 2315 31,572 >116,000 127,381(2001)[11]
Indigenous tribes, races,
and ethnic groups
1,179 >2,100 2,112
Languages into which Bahá'í literature is translated 417 800
Bahá'í Publishing Trusts 9 26 33 (2001)[11]

Bahá’í sourcesEdit


  • As early as 1991 official estimates were of "more than five million Bahá’ís",[10] which is still in use as of 2017.[3]
  • The Department of Statistics, Bahá'í World Centre, does not provide an estimated total, but publishes more concrete statistics, such as the representation among countries, languages, and tribes. In 2001 the department claimed there were 11,740 local Spiritual Assemblies, and 127,381 localities in 236 countries and territories.[11]
  • A 1997 statement by the NSA of South Africa wrote: "…the Bahá'í Faith enjoys a world-wide following in excess of six million people."[16]
  • In 1989 the journal Religion published an article by Bahá'ís Moojan Momen and Peter Smith.[17] They observed that in the 1950s there were "probably in the region of 200,000 Bahá'ís world-wide. The vast majority of these (over 90%) lived in Iran." And by the end of the 1960s, "we 'guestimate' that there may now have been about one million Bahá'ís."
  • A 1987 report, published in the United States Bahá'í News reports 4.74 million Bahá'ís in 1986 growing at a rate of 31% over 1979, or 4.4% per year on average.[18]


  • The first known survey of the religion comes from an unpublished work in 1919–1920 gathered by John Esslemont and had been intended to be part of his well-known Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era.[19] In it, consulting various individuals, he summarizes the religion's presence in Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkestan, and the United States. It did not arrive at a total but did have some regional statistics based on some individual reports.
  • During his `Abdu'l-Bahá's tour of America several newspapers made claims of how large the religion was - usually the millions of people.
    • In 1912, a reporter in Salt Lake City claimed `Abdu'l-Bahá said the religion had "10,000,000 followers in the world."[20]
    • On June 16, 1912, a news report introduced him as the "Persian religious leader and spiritual and temporal head of the 14,000,000 of Bahá’ís scattered throughout the world."[21]
    • On April 24, 1912, a newspaper article said "Bahá’ísm now has 15,000,000 adherents scattered throughout the world, several hundred thousand of whom are in the United States and Canada."[22]
    • On April 12, 1912, a newspaper introduced him as "head of one of the newest and most thriving religions in the world, numbering 20,000,000 souls among his followers, of whom several hundred souls are in New York."[23]
    • On September 9, 1911, a news report about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's visit to London claimed "at a moderate estimate, three million followers."[24]

Other sourcesEdit

Many sources mentioning the number of Bahá'ís in the world are deriving their information from just a few sources, which themselves review Bahá'í sources among many censuses and surveys. When a number is estimated for a particular year, future years are estimated based on growth rates.

  • The World Christian Database (WCD), and its predecessor the World Christian Encyclopedia. The WCD reviewed religious populations around the world and released results of their investigations at various times, most recently in 2010. The Bahá'í Faith has consistently placed high in the statistics of growth over these various releases of data.[2][25][26] A review examining the reliability and bias of the World Christian Database found it "highly correlated with other sources of data" but "consistently gave a higher estimate for percent Christian." In conclusion they found that, "Religious composition estimates in the World Christian Database are generally plausible and consistent with other data sets."[27]
  • Association for Religious Data Archives (ARDA). The archive is "a collection of surveys, polls, and other data submitted by the foremost scholars and research centers in the world." It gathers data from, "the US Census Bureau's International Data Base, the US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report, the United Nations Human Development Reports, and others."[28]

In 2012 the Pew Research Center published a report on the Global Religious Landscape. Bahá'ís were grouped in with the category "Other Religions" that included Sikhs and Zoroastrians. Pew said, "Because of the lack of data on these faiths in many countries, the Pew Forum has not attempted to estimate the size of individual religions within this category..."[29]

From 2005 and newerEdit

  • In April 2017, The Economist reported that there were more than 7 million Bahá'ís in the world.[30]
  • In 2016 the Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2016 noted just over 7.8 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2015, having grown at an overall rate of 2.79% across the century 1910 to 2010.[31] The countries with the largest Bahá'í populations in 2015 were, (starting with the largest): India, the US, Kenya, Viet Nam, Congo DR, Philippines, Zambia, South Africa, Iran and Bolivia, ranging upwards from 232,000 to just over 2 million in India.[32]
  • In 2013 the book The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography wrote, "The Baha'i Faith is the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population; Baha’i was thus the fastest-growing religion between 1910 and 2010, growing at least twice as fast as the population of almost every UN region."[6]
  • The 2010, Association of Religion Data Archives estimate is of 7.3 million (based partly on World Christian Encyclopedia).[28]
  • In 2010, The World Religion Database states there are 7.3 million Bahá'ís.[26]
  • In 2010, Encyclopædia Britannica estimated a total of 7.3 million Bahá’ís residing in 221 countries,[1] based partly on the World Christian Encyclopedia.[citation needed]
  • The World Factbook states that Bahá'ís make up 0.12% of the world based on a 2007 estimate,[33] corresponding to 7.9 million people.
  • The 2005 Association of Religion Data Archives estimate is of 7.6 million[34] which is also echoed elsewhere.[35]
  • In 2005, the Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, records that:
"In the early twenty-first century the Bahá’ís number close to six million in more than two hundred countries. The number of adherents rose significantly in the late twentieth century from a little more than one million at the end of the 1960s."[36]

from 2000 to 2004Edit

  • In 2004, the Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa vol 1, reported that "By 1900, the community… had reached 50,000-100,000… Bahá’ís worldwide [are] estimated in 2001 at 5 million."
  • In 2003, World Book Encyclopedia reported that "there are about 5,500,000 Bahá’ís worldwide."[37]
  • In 2001,World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001,p 4 estimated 7.1 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries. The same source estimated 5.7 million in 1990.[38] Its definition of membership is broader than the official Bahá'í definition and would include people who attend Bahá'í gatherings regularly even if they have not declared their faith or persons who state they are Bahá'ís in government censuses as a result of reading about the religion or hearing about it on the radio.
  • In 2000, Encyclopædia Britannica estimated a total of 7.1 million Bahá’ís residing in 218 countries,[39] based partly on the World Christian Encyclopedia.[citation needed]
  • In 2000, Denis MacEoin wrote in the Handbook of Living Religions that:
"the movement has had remarkable success in establishing itself as a vigorous contender in the mission fields of Africa, India, parts of South America, and the Pacific, thus outstripping other new religions in a world-wide membership of perhaps 4 million and an international spread recently described as second only to that of Christianity. The place of Baha'ism among world religions now seems assured."
  • estimates 7 million Bahá’ís in 2000 based on Bahá'í sources, research from the World Christian Encyclopedia, 2000, and the Population Reference Bureau.[40][7]

1980s to 2000Edit

  • In 1998, the Academic American Encyclopedia said that the Bahá’ís "are estimated to number about 2 million."
  • In 1997, Dictionary of World Religions estimated "five million Bahá’ís" in the world.[41]
  • In 1997, Religions of the World published: "today there are about 5 million" Bahá’ís.
  • In 1993, the Columbia Encyclopedia published: "There are about 5 million Bahá’ís in the world."
  • In 1995 the HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion states: "In 1985, it was estimated that there were between 1.5 to 2 million Baha'is, with the greatest areas of recent growth in Africa, India, and Vietnam."


  • Paul Oliver wrote in World Faiths that there were "approximately five million Bahá’ís" in 1963.[42]

Figures from various countriesEdit

From the early 1960s until the late 1990s, the Baha'i population of the United States went from around 10,000 to 140,000 on official rolls, but the members with known addresses in 1998 was about half.[43] In recent years, the United States Bahá'í community has been releasing detailed membership statistics.[44][45]

Bahá'ís and other sources such as official government census data or other some third party organizations can vary. Sometimes the Bahá'í sourced numbers are higher and sometimes lower. And census data is sometimes criticized, as in the case of India.[46][47]

Nation Census or survey data The Association of Religion
Data Archives data, 2010[28]
Bahá'í-cited data
Barbados 178 in 2010[48] 3,337 "about 400" in 2010[49]
Belize 202 in 2010[50] 7,742
Canada 18,945 in 2011[51] 46,826 >30,000[52]
Guyana 500 in 2002[53] 11,787
India 4,572 in 2011[54] 1,898,000 >2,000,000[55]
Mauritius 645 in 2011[56] 23,742
United States 84,000 in 2001[57] 512,864 175,000 in 2014 excluding Alaska and Hawai'i[58]

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion. 19: 63–91. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(89)90077-8.
  • Smith, Peter (26 November 2014). "The Baha'i Faith: Distribution Statistics, 1925–1949". Journal of Religious History. 39 (3): 352–369. doi:10.1111/1467-9809.12207. ISSN 1467-9809.
  • Bahá'í World Centre Department of Statistics (August 2001). "Bahá'í World Statistics August 2001 CE". Baha'i Library Online. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  • "Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents". 2000. Retrieved 2017-07-05.


  1. ^ a b Britannica 2010.
  2. ^ a b World Christian Encyclopedia 2001.
  3. ^ a b c d Bahá'í World News Service 2017.
  4. ^ Britannica 2002.
  5. ^ MacEoin 2000.
  6. ^ a b Johnson & Grim 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d Major Religions of the World 2000.
  8. ^ NSRI Methodology 1990.
  9. ^ Donaldson 2017.
  10. ^ a b Bahá'í World News Service 1992.
  11. ^ a b c d e f BWC Stats 2001.
  12. ^ Effendi 1971, p. 140.
  13. ^ Hornby 1983, p. 76.
  14. ^ a b Smith 2014.
  15. ^ Momen 2011.
  16. ^ NSA South Africa 1997.
  17. ^ Momen & Smith 1989.
  18. ^ Bahá'í News 1987.
  19. ^ Momen 2004, pp. 63-106.
  20. ^ Evening Standard 1912.
  21. ^ Anaconda Standard 1912.
  22. ^ Houston Chronicle 1912.
  23. ^ Greeley-Smith 1912.
  24. ^ Boston Evening Transcript 1911.
  25. ^ Foreign-Policy 2007.
  26. ^ a b Grim 2012.
  27. ^ Hsu et al. 2008.
  28. ^ a b c ARDA 2010.
  29. ^ Pew Research 2012.
  30. ^ A.V. 2017.
  31. ^ Grim et al. 2016.
  32. ^ Populations and Demographic Trends 2011.
  33. ^ CIA World Factbook 2007.
  34. ^ ARDA 2005.
  35. ^ Warf & Vincent 2007.
  36. ^ Jones 2005, p. 739.
  37. ^ World Book 2003.
  38. ^ Adherent Statistic Citations 2007.
  39. ^ Britannica 2000.
  40. ^ Largest Baha'i Communities 2001.
  41. ^ Bowker 1997.
  42. ^ Oliver 2001.
  43. ^ Stockman 1998.
  44. ^ Jones 2002.
  45. ^ Gaustadd & Barlow 2001, pp. 279-81.
  46. ^ How reliable are India’s official statistics?, by Ankush Agrawal, IEG, and Vikas Kumar,, 6 April 2012
  47. ^ Srinivasan & Bedi 2008: "The civil registration system... is not complete and far from reliable."
  48. ^ Barbados Statistical Service 2010.
  49. ^ NSA Barbados 2010.
  50. ^ Belize Census 2010.
  51. ^ Canada Survey 2011.
  52. ^ NSA Canada 2017.
  53. ^ Guyana Census 2002.
  54. ^ India Census 2011.
  55. ^ NSA India 2017.
  56. ^ Republic of Mauritius 2011.
  57. ^ Kosmin & Mayer 2001.
  58. ^ US Stats 2014.





News reportsEdit

Other sourcesEdit