May 20, 2015

PURITAN NATION:

Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners When People Change Faiths (LEAH LIBRESCO, 5/19/15, 538)

Pew's survey data makes it possible to calculate where all 12 of the religions for which Pew has data -- including some non-Christian religions -- settle into a steady demographic distribution. This equilibrium is the logical extension of present trends, fast-forwarding until a new, persistent normal emerges. This kind of analysis gives us a chance to zero in on one factor that drives religious change -- recruitment of new members and retention of old ones -- but excludes other factors like immigration and doctrinal shifts. (You can check out the model and data on GitHub.)

If conversions went on as they do today and all other factors were held steady, America would wind up with the religious demographics of the stable distribution.

Unaffiliateds would wind up modestly gaining ground (from 23 percent at present to 29 percent).1 And Christian denominations would drop a little (from 69 percent at present to 62 percent at equilibrium).2

But there would be substantial redistribution among Christian groups, with evangelical Protestants gaining (26 percent at present to 32 percent) and Catholics losing more than half their current share of the population (21 percent to 8 percent).

Why do evangelicals wind up ahead of other Christian sects in this model? They're better at holding on to the people born into their tradition (65 percent retention compared to 59 percent for Catholics and 45 percent for Mainline Protestants), and they're a stronger attractor for people leaving other faiths. According to Pew's data on conversion rates, 10 percent of people raised Catholic wind up as evangelicals. Just 2 percent of people born as evangelicals wind up Catholic. The flow between mainline and evangelical Protestants is also tilted in evangelicals' favor. Twelve percent of those raised evangelical wind up in mainline congregations, but 19 percent of mainline Protestants wind up becoming evangelical.

Posted by at May 20, 2015 6:59 PM
  

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