Estimating the number of atheists in the U.S. is complicated. Some adults who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. At the same time, some people who identify with a religion (e.g., say they are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish) also say they do not believe in God.
But one thing is for sure: Along with the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans (many of whom believe in God), there has been a corresponding increase in the number of atheists. Here are a few facts about this group and their beliefs:
1The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that 3.1% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in a similarly large survey in 2007. An additional 4.0% of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 2.4% in 2007.
2Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population; 68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults). Atheists also are more likely to be white (78% are Caucasian vs. 66% for the general public) and highly educated: About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 27% of the general public.
3Self-identified atheists tend to be aligned with the Democratic Party and with political liberalism. About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives). Atheists overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage (92%) and legal abortion (87%). In addition, three-quarters (74%) say that government aid to the poor does more good than harm. Read More →
Category: 5 Facts
Today’s American families are more likely than those of past decades to feature two full-time working parents. A new Pew Research Center report looks at how working moms and dads in two-parent households are balancing their jobs with their family responsibilities and how they view the dynamics of sharing child care and household responsibilities.
Here are some key findings from the report:
1Two-parent households with a mother who does not work outside the home have grown much less common in the U.S. since 1970. Today, both parents work full time in 46% of these households. Only about a quarter of two-parent households now consist of a full-time working father and a mother who is not employed. By comparison, in 1970, both parents worked full time in just 31% of two-parent homes, while a full-time working dad and a stay-at-home mom made up a 46% plurality of them. Read More →
Category: 5 Facts
God is frequently invoked in American public life. Indeed, there is no shortage of instances of official acknowledgement of the divine, from the appearance of “In God We Trust” on our currency to the phrase “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
To be sure, the vast majority of Americans still believe in God. But there are strong signs that many are less certain about this belief than in years past. And a small but growing minority of Americans say they do not believe in God at all.
When asked if they believe in “God or a universal spirit” in the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 89% of U.S. adults say yes – down from 92% from the previous RLS in 2007. Nearly one-in-ten (9%) now say they don’t believe in God, up from 5% in 2007.
The changes have been even more substantial when it comes to certainty of belief in God: 63% of Americans are absolutely certain that God exists, down 8 percentage points from 2007, when 71% said this.
Ben Carson’s religion has been in the spotlight in recent weeks after Donald Trump, one of Carson’s leading rivals in the Republican presidential primary, mentioned it at a Florida rally. “I’m Presbyterian,” Trump said, according to media reports. “Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, known for its observance of the Sabbath on Saturdays and some other unique beliefs and practices, traces its origins to the United States in the first half of the 19th century, when preacher William Miller built a religious movement around his prediction that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1844. Since then, the church has transitioned from being seen as a cult by some Americans to a more mainstream evangelical Christian denomination.
Here are a few facts about Seventh-day Adventists in the United States today, based on the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study:
Seventh-day Adventists make up one-half of 1% of the U.S. adult population (0.5%), little changed from 2007 (0.4%). That stability stands in contrast to U.S. Christians overall, whose share of the population has dropped by nearly 8 percentage points (from 78.4% to 70.6%) over that same period.
On one level, the story of how Americans’ religious affiliations are changing is well known and straightforward: More and more U.S. adults say they do not identify with any religion, while a shrinking majority describe themselves as Christians, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study we published in May.
But whether the country is actually becoming less religious is a more complicated question. Are its religious beliefs and practices changing beyond the declining shares of people who choose to identify with a religion?
Our second report from the 2014 Religious Landscape Study examines Americans’ religious beliefs and finds that the question of whether adults in the U.S. are becoming more or less religious depends, in part, on how religious observance is measured.
Here are five key takeaways from the report:
1Overall, Americans have become slightly less religious – based on some key traditional gauges of religiosity – since the last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. For instance, 53% of U.S. adults now say religion is very important in their lives, down from 56% in 2007. Over the same seven-year period, the share of Americans who say they are absolutely certain that God exists has dropped from 71% to 63%. And 36% of adults report attending religious services at least weekly, down 3 percentage points since 2007. Read More →
African immigrants make up a small share of the U.S. immigrant population, but their numbers are growing – roughly doubling every decade since 1970, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.
There were 1.8 million African immigrants living in the U.S. in 2013, up from 881,000 in 2000 and a substantial increase from 1970, when the U.S. was home to only 80,000 foreign-born Africans. They accounted for 4.4% of the immigrant population in 2013, up from 0.8% in 1970.
The growth is evident among recently arrived immigrants. When compared with other major groups who arrived in the U.S. in the past five years, Africans had the fastest growth rate from 2000 to 2013, increasing by 41% during that period. (Africans are also a rapidly growing segment of the black immigrant population in the U.S., increasing by 137% from 2000 to 2013.)
The transatlantic slave trade beginning in the 16th century brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to the U. S., but significant voluntary migration from Africa is a relatively new trend. Read More →
The number of Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin living in Florida has surpassed 1 million for the first time, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, more than doubling the state’s Puerto Rican population over the past 14 years.
The analysis of 2014 data, the most recent available, finds that the number of Puerto Ricans in Florida has increased 110% since 2000, when their population was 479,000. This outpaces the state’s total population growth rate (24%), as well as that of Hispanics overall (78%) during this period.
The trend comes as the island’s economic recession has led many residents of the U.S. territory to look for opportunities on the U.S. mainland, and as more Puerto Ricans move to Florida from other states. Read More →
On Saturday evening, many American children will encounter costumed ghosts as they roam the streets in search of candy and other treats on Halloween. Before bedtime, to avoid nightmares, some parents may try to reassure their kids that ghosts are not real.
But not all of those parents may buy their own reassurances: Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) say they’ve seen or been in the presence of a ghost, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center survey. An even greater share – 29% – say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died.
Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, explored Americans’ persisting beliefs in some supernatural phenomena in a 2013 blog post.
“As we approach Halloween, note that most American adults in the 21st Century say that they believe in life after death and in the devil,” Fischer wrote, citing data from Gallup and other sources. “Over one-third say that they believe in the spirits of the dead coming back; about that many also say they believe in haunted houses.”
Despite the influence of modern secularism and science, he observed, “the magic has not totally gone.”
Does going to church help keep ghosts away? It’s impossible to say, but people who often go to worship services appear to be less likely to say they see ghosts. Just 11% of those who attend religious services at least weekly say they’ve been in the presence of a ghost, while 23% of those who attend services less frequently say they have seen a ghost, the Pew Research Center survey found.
Topics: Religion and Society
Next month, representatives of nearly 200 countries will meet in Paris to try to reach a universal, binding agreement to address global climate change. Two of the biggest obstacles to such an agreement have been the fact that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases vary widely from country to country, and that many leaders fear limiting emissions could impede economic growth, particularly for newly industrializing countries trying to lift people out of poverty.
One metric that ties both of those notions together is energy intensity – the total energy used by a country per unit of gross domestic product (energy consumption being closely related to carbon emissions). Though not without its drawbacks and criticisms, energy intensity is useful as a sort of Energy Star rating for an entire economy: All else being equal, you’d probably prefer to use less energy to generate a given amount of economic output.
While energy intensity can be calculated several ways, for simplicity we use the version adopted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA): the total energy used by a country in a year (in British thermal units, or Btu) divided by the country’s GDP for that year (in constant 2005 U.S. dollars on a purchasing-power parity basis, so the data are comparable across time and national borders). The resulting figure represents how many Btu the country used per dollar of GDP.
Between 1993 and 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, worldwide energy intensity fell 18.7%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from nearly 200 nations and territories compiled by the EIA; most nations (112) reduced their energy intensities over that time period. Read More →
What makes a good life? Usually this question is in the domain of priests, philosophers and metaphysicians, but the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a think tank consisting of 34 mostly rich countries, sought to find the answers with data.
The organization’s Better Life Index looks at 23 indicators of current well-being across 11 domains, from how much people earn and the cost of housing, to life expectancy, and even to how much time off people get from work. Most of the indicators are culled from OECD’s own research based on country-level government data, but they also include public opinion surveys – all of which could be combined to form scores on a “well-being” scale.
Overall, a Pew Research Center analysis of the data finds that life is good in most of these countries – almost all fall within the organization’s average range. But well-being is notably better for people in Norway and the U.S. than it is for people in Turkey and Mexico.
And there’s a lot of nuance in between. For example, if you think well-being is defined by financial wealth and household income, the U.S. is the place for you. But if you prefer time off from work, France is the ideal place, by far, to put down roots. On the other hand, if you are trying to avoid victimization and dying from assault, Mexico is not your ideal destination.
The reports’ authors looked at the essential ingredients that shape people’s well-being in these 34 nations. To standardize different measures, OECD converted each indicator to a “z score” that represents standard deviations above or below the 34-nation average. The OECD average is represented by a z score of 0; scores closer to 1 and above represent higher well-being and those closer to -1 and below indicate lower well-being. We analyzed the data by averaging the z scores across all 23 indicators to see how the countries ranked. For this average, each indicator received equal weight. Read More →