Visualizing the World’s Most Popular Religions
According to some estimates, there are over 4,000 religions, faiths groups, and denominations that exist around the world today. Researchers and academics generally categorize the world’s religions into five major groups: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.
In addition to the five major religious groups, the graphic includes two more categories: one for a collective of Folk religions and another for people who are unaffiliated with a religion.
The Religions with the Most Followers
Although the number of people who follow a religion has decreased in recent decades, 82.8% of the global population still identifies with one of the world’s major religions.
Here’s a breakdown of the most popular religions, ranked by their following as a percentage of the world’s population:
|Rank||Religion||% of World’s Population|
Christianity has the largest following with approximately 31% of the global population. Muslims make up the second-largest religious group, accounting for 23.2% of the world’s population.
Roughly 16.4% of the global population is unaffiliated with a religion. This figure exceeds the percentage of people who identify with Hinduism (15%), Buddhism (7.1%), Folk Religions (5.9%), or Judaism (0.2%).
The World’s Religions from Oldest to Newest
Hinduism is considered the oldest religion in the world, originating in the Indus River Valley (modern-day Pakistan) circa 7000 BCE.
While Judaism came after Hinduism, it is thought to be the oldest of the three monotheistic Abrahamic faiths, making it older than Christianity and Islam.
It began circa 2000 BCE in the Southern Levant (modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan). By contrast, Christianity was founded in the 1st century and began as a movement within Judaism.
Scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th century, making it the youngest of the world’s major religions on this list. Islam was established in Mecca (modern-day Saudi-Arabia).
One religion that’s not included on this list is Sikhism. Founded in the late 15th century, it’s relatively new, especially compared to other religions like Hinduism or Judaism. Yet, despite being new, Sikhism has a large following—according to some estimates, there are over 25 million Sikhs worldwide.
What are Folk Religions?
A folk religion is defined as an ethnic or cultural practice that exists outside the theological doctrine of organized religions.
Lacking sacred texts, Folk religions are more concerned with spirituality than rituals or rites. Examples of Folk religions include Native American traditions, Chinese folk religions, and traditional African religions.
Since Folk religions are less institutionalized, they are especially challenging to measure and often excluded from surveys. With that said, an estimated 5.9% of the global population (approximately 430 million people) practice a Folk religion.
The Fastest-Growing Religions
While Islam is the newest of the big five religions, it’s currently the world’s fastest-growing one too. For context, here’s the estimated percent change among the seven religion categories, between 2015 and 2060:
|Rank||Religious Group||Est. % change in population size (2015-2060)|
Islam’s rapid growth means it may surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion within the next half-century. What’s causing this growth?
According to Pew Research Center, the main reason is simply demographics—on average, Muslim women have 2.9 children, which the average of all non-Muslims is 2.2.
Muslims are also concentrated in Africa and the Middle East, the two regions predicted to have the highest population increases in the next few decades.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Countries with the Highest (and Lowest) Proportion of Immigrants
Here, we highlight countries that are magnets for immigration, such as UAE and Qatar, as well as nations with very few foreign born residents.
Countries with the Highest Proportion of Immigrants
For people living in cosmopolitan urban centers, it’s easy to overestimate the prevalence of immigrants around the world.
The median proportion of foreign-born people in all countries is just over 5%. In countries with a population greater than one million, only four are majority foreign-born, and only eight surpass the one-third mark.
Here are the top 20 countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in their populations:
|Country||Immigrants as a percentage of population|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||88%|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||39%|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||29%|
Source: UN via World Population Review. Note: Only countries with a population of greater than one million are included.
The United Arab Emirates comes out on top for the highest proportion of immigrants in its population. Impressively, the small Middle Eastern nation ranks sixth in the world for total immigrant population (8.7 million people).
Other countries on the Arabian Peninsula also rank at the top of this list. In Qatar, current host of the 2022 World Cup, 3-in-4 people are immigrants. The high proportion of foreign workers in the country also results in an extreme demographic skew—approximately 75% of the population of Qatar is male.
The one extreme outlier in the region is war-torn Yemen, where only 1.3% of the population are immigrants.
Outside the Middle East, Singapore (43%) takes top spot, followed by Australia (30%).
Spotlight on U.S. Immigration
Although the United States is outside the top 20, it still has by far the most immigrants of any other country (50 million vs. 16 million in second-place Germany).
About 15% of people in the U.S. are immigrants—numbers which are comparable to the historic high in the late 19th century. The proportion of foreign-born people in the country has been on the rise since the 1970s, and is projected to continue rising in coming decades. Around 2030, immigration is expected to surpass natural increases as a driver of population growth.
Countries with the Lowest Proportion of Immigrants
A few countries are magnets for immigration, while a great many more receive very little immigration. This can simply be due to lack of demand, or because of more extreme circumstances such as war or a failing economy. In other cases, immigration policies may limit the number of people who can migrate to a country.
Here are the top 20 countries with the lowest proportion of immigrants in their populations:
|Country||Immigrants as a percentage of population|
|🇰🇵 North Korea||0.19%|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||0.19%|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||0.35%|
Cuba has the lowest level of foreign-born people in its population. The Caribbean nation makes it very difficult for foreign nationals obtain permanent residency.
China comes in second last. In absolute terms, the million or so immigrants living in China may sound like a lot, but pales in comparison to the overall population of 1.4 billion.
Interestingly, Japan–which is the poster child for low immigration–isn’t on the list above. The country’s foreign-born population sits at just over 2%.
Ranked: Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations
Which brands win the most with Gen Z compared to older generations? From TikTok to Capri Sun, this ranking looks at Gen Z’s favorite brands.
Gen Z’s Favorite Brands, Compared with Older Generations
Generation Z’s favorite brands, in absolute terms, aren’t wildly different from preferences of other generations, with Walmart, Google, and Netflix ranking high. But when it comes to the brands that do the best with Gen Z compared to their elders, the list shakes up dramatically.
This ranking uses consumer preference data from Morning Consult to show which brands are favored considerably more by Gen Z when compared to the general public. A brand’s rank is determined by the difference in favorability between Gen Z’s survey responses and the average of all U.S. adult respondents.
Note: Gen Z is the generation born between 1997-2012. Favorability in this ranking is measured using the share of a generation who said they have a “very” or “somewhat” favorable opinion of said brand.
Brands Preferred by Gen Z
Compared to Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers, who may not care as much for these 20 brands, Gen Z—currently between 9-25 years old—loves them. Let’s dive in:
|Rank||Brand||Favorability Difference||U.S. Adult Favorability||Gen Z Favorability|
Note: Differences may not add up exactly due to rounding.
Unsurprisingly, TikTok takes the top spot. The app that is frequently used to poke fun at older generations and that in many ways is a reflection of Gen Z culture, is 30 points more favorable with the young generation than others.
Members of Gen Z are the first true “digital natives”—meaning they were raised in the age of digital technology. As a result, many of their favorite brands are either some kind of social media platform and/or digital service, like Apple Pay, Snapchat, or Spotify. In fact, eight of Gen Z’s top 10 favorites on the above list are digital brands.
Another distinguishing feature of consumers in this generation is that they’re more likely to care about brand ethics and sustainable consumption than other generations.
However, one brand among their top 20 that defies that sentiment is the Chinese clothing company, Shein. This fast fashion company’s model promotes a culture of mass clothing hauls and thus, clothing waste—making it far from environmentally conscious. Shein has also come under fire recently for violating labor laws in its Chinese production facilities. And yet 44% of Gen Zs have a good impression of the brand, and it particularly does well with Gen Z women.
Interestingly, members of Gen Z in the U.S. are also the first cohort to have strong awareness of Chinese brands more generally.
Gen Z vs. Millennials
Two generations that are often lumped together, Gen Z and Millennials have some considerable differences when it comes to their favorite brands. Here’s a brief look at some of the brands that do better with Gen Z compared to Millennials specifically, using favorability difference:
- TikTok: 14.2
- Crocs: 13.4
- Pixar: 8.1
- Morphe: 6.1
Compared to their generational neighbors, one interesting standout is Crocs—the utilitarian, but highly-customizable foam clogs—which almost 60% of Gen Zs see as favorable compared to only 46% of Millennials.
Gen Z’s Favorite Brands Overall
While Gen Z differentiates itself from the older generations in many ways, a lot of the overall favorites still align with everyone else’s.
Removing the favorability difference score reveals that many of the most popular brands overall still win out, such as Netflix, Google, and Amazon.
Gen Z Trends
Overall, the report found that it’s hard for brands to win with Gen Z. Across all brands that were scored, 33% of the general American public rated them as favorable, but for Gen Z respondents the number dropped to 27%.
In general, Gen Z tends to value conscious consumption and subsequently, brands that can meet those expectations. Digital services and products also do well with this generation that has never known a world without internet.
As more and more Gen Zers enter the labor market and grow their consumer power, they will be an important generation to watch.
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