Many Faiths of Many Regions

Continuities and Changes Among Religious Adherents Across U.S. Counties

by Clifford A. Grammich

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U.S. religious bodies continue to vary by their geographic distribution and their rates of growth. The changing landscape of religious adherence has many implications for communities on myriad issues (e.g., health, policy, social change). An examination of recently tabulated county-level numbers of religious adherents shows Evangelical Protestants continuing to grow, but at slower rates than that of the population. Mainline Protestants continue to decrease, even in areas of some population growth. Catholics are increasing slightly, but likely only because of Hispanic and immigrant population influxes. Precisely comparable trend data on total Jewish population growth are not readily available, but there appears to have been a considerable redistribution of the Jewish population in recent decades. Earlier county-level on other non-Christian religions is not available, but recent data show Muslims concentrated in large metropolitan counties and Eastern religious congregations concentrated in counties with Asian populations. This paper examines these changes and distributions of religious populations in light of existing theories that could account for these variations. The recent results confirm some of these theories, but suggest further examination or possible modifications for others. Further analysis of these data may also yield some insights on the interplay between political and religious population change, as well as on efforts to meet social needs through faith-based institutions.

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