Zoroastrian demographics and our population decline

I am attaching here a copy of the full version of the paper I delivered at the North American Zoroastrian Congress in Houston on Zoroastrian demographics and our population decline.  This has additional material, footnotes, and charts and graphs.

Feel free to pass along to others.  I’m very keen in giving the community some reliable data.

The summary of my paper is given here:

This is an extended version of a paper delivered at the 2010 Houston Congress.  Within the Zoroastrian community, there is little consensus on population figures and demographic trends.  This paper attempts to provide a realistic estimate of the worldwide Zoroastrian population—including Parsis, Iranian Zoroastrians, and Iranis—based on the best scholarly and community estimates available.  It questions, due to lack of evidence, the idea that thousands of people are converting to Zoroastrianism worldwide.  Having established the actual small size of the community, this paper furthermore highlights the staggering demographic crisis that it faces.  Amongst the Parsis of India, at least, population figures are dropping rapidly and the prime reasons are not out-migration to the West or even, for the moment, intermarriage.  Rather, a large corpus of scholarly studies indicate that the Parsi population crisis is due to stunningly low fertility rates; that is, an incredibly limited number of children born to the community.  Low fertility rates are not due to biological problems but rather due to cultural and attitudinal factors that prompt late marriage and non-marriage amongst Parsis.  Quite simply, Parsis’ decisions to marry late, or not marry at all, have translated into a drastically shrinking population.
This paper is based on data and scholarship produced by actual demographic scholars in India and the United States.  I have simply summarized findings that have been well known in the academic community yet surprisingly unknown within the Zoroastrian community. I conclude by suggesting that Indian Parsi demographic trends may also hold true in the diaspora.  I also offer some ideas on how we can reverse our current population trends.  Please feel free to distribute this paper and publish excerpts.  My aim in writing this paper is to educate our community and provide some realistic data.  You can contact me at dpatel@fas.harvard.edu.

Best regards,

Dinyar Patel
Ph.D. Candidate, Modern South Asia
Department of History
Harvard University
+1 (650) 796-2486

2010-12 Jaago-Bidari – Zoroastrian Demographics – NAZC


  • Geve Narielwalla

    Whilst we continue making noises about inter marriages and conversions issues, the real threat to our very survival lies in our backyard-low fertility, and the lack of desire to marry and have progeny. This means for the past several decades we have callously neglected addressing this issue. Medical science has some very proven solutions for most causes of low fertility, and good medical advice aimed at finding out mental (including cultural/attitudinal) and health causes, and ‘curing ‘ these, that lead a young man to a healthy normal life should even now be encouraged and funded (where neccessary) by our rich trusts and institutions.
    Geve Narielwalla

    • been there, done that

      thanks for the informative paper. how about the question on WHY the marriages are not happening or happening so late? from personal experience i can tell you that finding an educated, parsi/zoro boy who earns enough to support a family AND who does not have a swollen head/ego is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. the parsi/zoro guys (specially the ones in india) need to be better educated with better jobs. There are plenty of highly qualified, zoro girls who are earning extremely well and who are looking for similar boys. There is a lot of ‘looking’ — many years worth infact — before they are able to (if lucky) find a boy. This is one of the main reasons in india that marriages are later in life and progeny are fewer.

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