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Economic Pain Uneven in India's Muslim and Hindu Populations

Economic Pain Uneven in India's Muslim and Hindu Populations

Story Highlights

  • 51% of Muslim Indians say their standards of living are getting worse
  • 39% of Hindu Indians say the same
  • 71% of Muslim Indians, 64% of Hindu Indians have difficulty getting by

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventy-five years after India's independence and its partition into a predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan, Gallup surveys in India show the country's large remaining Muslim minority and its Hindu majority are living in two Indias.

Over the past several years, both Muslim Indians and Hindu Indians have been struggling more economically, but their economic pain has not been evenly distributed, and Muslim Indians are far more pessimistic about their future prospects. In 2021, a slim majority of Muslim Indians (51%) said their standard of living was getting worse, compared with 39% of Hindu Indians.


Muslim Indians have been the target of discrimination and prejudice since Indian independence, despite legal protections for the group. Discrimination and bias targeting the Indian Muslim population have reportedly intensified in recent years, making the group more susceptible to negative impacts from economic issues.

For both groups, perceptions that standards of living were worsening shot up between 2018 and 2019, as the Indian economy entered a deep slowdown. Among Muslim Indians, the percentage jumped to 45% in 2019, up from 25% the previous year. And among Hindu Indians, the percentage saying the same hit 37% in 2019, an increase of 19 percentage points from 2018.

For much of Gallup's trend, there was a relatively small gap between the two groups in perceptions that their living standards were worsening. Until 2019, this area had no more than an eight-point gap. The current 12-percentage-point gap between Muslim and Hindu Indians in perceptions that living standards were getting worse is the largest in Gallup's trend.

Muslim Indians Have Tougher Time Making Ends Meet

Clear majorities of both Muslim and Hindu Indians say they are finding it difficult or very difficult to get by on their present household incomes. However, Muslim Indians in 2021 were more likely to say so than Hindu Indians, 71% vs. 64%.

As with perceptions of the trajectory of standards of living, views on household income have soured sharply since 2018. In 2018, 47% of Muslim Indians and 50% of Hindu Indians said they were finding it difficult to get by; this jumped to 56% and 55%, respectively, in 2019 and rose even more in 2021.


Muslim Indians Struggle More to Afford Food

In the face of rising inflation, sizable percentages of Muslim Indians (55%) and Hindu Indians (48%) said there were times in the past year that they did not have enough money to afford food, but Muslim Indians were more likely to say so. As with the other two measures, Indians' difficulties in this area have only intensified since the slowdown of India's economy began in 2018 and the onset of the pandemic.

In 2018, 43% of Muslim Indians and 39% of Hindu Indians said they had lacked money for food at some point in the previous 12 months. This increased to 52% among Muslim adults and 53% among Hindu adults in 2019. However, in 2021 there was a modest increase to 55% among Muslim Indians and a decline to 48% for Hindu Indians.


Bottom Line

The continued marginalization of Muslim Indians as the country attempts to recover from the pandemic will likely impact the country as a whole. There are roughly 200 million Indian Muslims, and failing to address the economic pain they are disproportionately feeling may set the stage for economic stagnation and political instability for years to come in India.

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For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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