May 25, 2007

U.S. Catholics Who are Latino

33%

An estimated one-third (33%) of all Catholics in the United States are now Hispanics; given long-term demographic trends, the Hispanic presence in the nation’s largest single religious denomination is certain to grow.

An estimated one-third (33%) of all Catholics in the United States are now Hispanics; given long-term demographic trends, the Hispanic presence in the nation’s largest single religious denomination is certain to grow. About two-thirds (68%) of Latinos identify as Catholics and among this group more than half say Spanish is their primary language, and more than two-thirds are immigrants. The socioeconomic status of Hispanic Catholics also tends to be lower than that of Latinos who adhere to other religious traditions. The number of Catholic Latinos in the United States has steadily grown through the arrival of new immigrants, especially those from Mexico, and through relatively high fertility rates among immigrants. However, some Latinos leave the Catholic Church as they choose to practice another religion or stop practicing a religious faith altogether. Assuming that the rate of conversion over the past 25 years holds constant for the next 25 years, a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the share of Latinos who are Catholic will decline from 68% in 2006 to 61% in 2030. Meanwhile, the proportion of U.S. Catholics who are Hispanic would increase over that period from 33% to 41%. In other words, conversions would continue to erode the share of Latinos who are Catholics, although Catholicism would clearly remain the dominant faith among Hispanics. But, meanwhile, Latino population growth through immigration and fertility combined with the demographic decline of the non-Hispanic population would ensure that Latinos become an ever greater share of U.S. Catholics overall. An alternative scenario shows that Latinos will remain a predominantly Catholic population even if the rate of conversions to secularism and other religious faiths increases by 50% over the next 25 years. In that case, 57% of Hispanics would be Catholics in 2030. And, even with increasing conversions, Hispanics would still comprise a sizeable share of the U.S. Catholic population, reaching 40% of total Catholics in 2030 compared with 33% in 2006. Read More