A downward trajectory continues to be observed in U.S. religious affiliation and engagement, according to a Pew Research Center Report published Oct. 17.

Over the past decade, the percentage of U.S. adults who identify as Christian has declined every year (save for 2012-13, when it remained stable at 73%) – moving from 77% affiliation in 2009 to 65% in 2018-19.

Protestant affiliation declined from 51% in 2009 to 43% in 2018-19, while Catholic affiliation dropped three points to 20%.

During this same period, non-Christian faith affiliation has remained largely stable (fluctuating between 5% and 7%), while religiously unaffiliated respondents have increased nine percentage points to 26%.

Among the unaffiliated, respondents identifying as atheist increased two points to 4% and agnostics rose two points to 5% from 2009 to 2018-19, while those identifying as “nothing in particular” rose five points to 17%.

“The changes underway in the American religious landscape are broad-based,” the report said. “The Christian share of the population is down and religious ‘nones’ have grown across multiple demographic groups: white people, black people and Hispanics; men and women; in all regions of the country; and among college graduates and those with lower levels of educational attainment.”

Similar trends were observed regarding religious service attendance, with the percentage of U.S. adults saying they attend a service at least monthly falling from 52% in 2009 to 45% in 2018-19, while those attending a few times a year or less increased from 47% to 54%.

Christian affiliation increases by age, while respondents identifying as unaffiliated decreases with age.

Among millennials (born 1981-96), 49% identify as Christians and 40% as unaffiliated in 2018-19.

By comparison, affiliation among Generation X (1965-80) was 67% and 25%, respectively; among baby boomers (1946-64) 76% and 17%, respectively; and among the Silent Generation (1928-45) 84% and 10%, respectively.

Non-Christian faith affiliation was more consistent across the generations, seeing only a 5% difference from the oldest to youngest: millennials (9%); Gen X (6%); baby boomers (6%); Silent Generation (4%).

It’s not all bad news for religion in the U.S., however.

Religious service attendance among Christians is largely stable. In 2009, 46% of Christians reported attending weekly, 17% monthly and 19% a few times a year.

By comparison, in 2018-19, 44% said they attended weekly, 18% monthly and 20% a few times a year.

“In other words, the nation’s overall rate of religious attendance is declining not because Christians are attending church less often, but rather because there are now fewer Christians as a share of the population,” the report said.

In addition, other Pew reports have noted that the U.S. is an outlier when it comes to religious affiliation among nations outside sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, as well as an exception among wealthier nations when it comes to prayer.

The full report is available here. The data tables are available here.

Share This