A new study that analyzed available data from the University of Chicago's General Social Survey suggests that increases in college education and the use of the Internet have resulted in a significant drop in religious affiliation of Americans over the last two decades.
The proportion of Americans who say they have no religious preference has increased from 8 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2010, according to the study conducted by Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Mass.
At the same time, the fraction of Protestants dropped from 62 percent in 1990 to 51 percent in 2010, while the number of Catholics and Jews did not change significantly, and in fact, the fraction of other religions increased from 3.3 percent to 4.2 percent, adds the study titled Religious Affiliation, Education and Internet Use that was published in MIT Technology Review on Friday.
These figures are based on the GSS, which has periodically measured Americans' attitudes and demographics since 1972. The questions in the surveys included "what is your religious preference?" and "in what religion were you raised?"
The study observed that alongside the increase in the percentage of Americans with no religious preference as well as the drop in the fraction of Protestants, the prevalence of Internet use and college education increased during the same period.