Religion Census: Increase in Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims; Decrease in Catholics, Mainline Protestants

A decennial census of U.S. religions in America was released Tuesday by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB). The results show a dramatic increase in the number of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, and Muslims, a modest increase in the number of evangelical Protestants, and a drop in the number of Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Muslims saw the greatest growth rate among the five main religious groups studied. Their numbers increased by 66.7 percent in the 2010 census from a decade earlier. Latter-day Saints saw the next highest growth at 45.5 percent, followed by evangelical Protestants at only 1.7 percent. The number of Catholics decreased by five percent and the number of mainline Protestants decreased by 12.8 percent.

Notably, when combined, nondenominational and independent churches are now the largest faith group, with over 12 million adherents, according to the report.

Evangelical Protestants and Latter-day Saints saw their greatest growth in the nine most populated metropolitan areas. These areas each have over 5 million people. Evangelical Christians increased their numbers by 12.3 percent and Latter-day Saints increased their numbers by 66.9 percent in these areas. Muslims, by contrast, grew at a faster rate outside of the major metropolitan areas.

The census also shows an increase in religious diversity in the United States. In the 2000 census, at least one non-Christian religious congregation was found in 21 percent of America's counties. In the 2010 census, that had risen to 31 percent, a nearly 50 percent increase.

ASARB's U.S. Religion Census is the most thorough study of its kind. County-level data is collected for 236 different religious groups. The first census was taken in 1952, to be followed up in 1971, 1980, 1990, 2000 and, now, 2010.

"With 236 participating bodies, the 2010 US Religion Census is the most comprehensive local-level analysis of U.S. religious adherents and attendance in more than 60 years," said Clifford Grammich, the chairman of the ASARB operations committee for the study, in a statement. "We are especially pleased to have increased participation for several independent and non-Christian bodies."

At the study's website you can view graphical representations of the wealth of data the census provides. One can select their own denomination or religious group, for instance, and view a map of how its numbers have changed, by county, over the previous decade.



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