New data on diversification in the U.S. Catholic Church

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Monday 20, September 2010 | Category:  

Last month the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University published statistics suggesting generational changes are underway within the Catholic Church that are transforming the demography of the U.S. Catholic population.

The CARA polls place Catholics into four generational groups: Pre-Vatican II (born before 1943); Vatican II (born between 1943 and 1960); Post-Vatican II (born between 1961 and 1981); and Millennial (born after 1982 and up to 1992 in order to be 18 in time for this year’s survey). The polls show some striking differences between the Pre-Vatican II group and now.

“Through a combination of immigration and different fertility rates among sub-groups of the population,” writes CARA, “racial and ethnic identities of the Catholic population now vary significantly by generation.”

By “significant” CARA means 25 percent, as in the approximate increase of Hispanic Catholics and the approximate decrease of non-Hispanic white Catholics between the Post-Vatican II and Millennial generations. Perhaps the most telling statistic in terms of how much the U.S. Catholic Church has changed is that among the Pre-Vatican II generation Hispanics account for only 15 percent of that population, while whites account for 75 percent. Among Millennials in the survey, Hispanics account for 54 percent of the U.S. Catholic population.

In the other races included in the survey—African American, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander—very negligible shifts were found, with those groups hovering between 1 to 4 percent of Catholics in the U.S.

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