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Who Are Catholics In the U.S.?

Earlier this month Pew Research Center ( released a new fact sheet containing demographic and statistical facts about the Catholic population in the United States, based on the center’s numerous surveys. Here are some of Pew’s major facts regarding Catholics in the United States.

  • Twenty percent of American adults identify as Catholics

This is a steady fact for the past 10 years. Out of 262 million adults in the U.S., about 52 million would say they’re Catholic, Pew reports. In 2007, 24% of U.S. adults said they were Catholic.

  • A third of all U.S. Catholics are Hispanic.

The Catholic population is 57% white, 33% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 2% Black, while 3% are of another race, Pew reported.

  • Catholics tend to be older than Americans overall, but Hispanic Catholics trend younger.

While more than half of U.S. Catholic adults overall are aged 50 or older, Hispanic Catholics break that mold. Fewer than half of Hispanic Catholics (43%) are 50 and older, and just 14% of Hispanic Catholics are ages 65 and older, versus 38% of white Catholics.

  • Roughly 3 in 10 U.S. Catholics (29%) live in the South, while 26% live in the Northeast, 24% in the West and 21% in the Midwest.

Data cited by Pew, and other data previously covered by CNA, show that Catholicism is growing fastest in the South and West, even as it declines in the Midwest and the historically Catholic Northeast.

The racial and ethnic profile of the Catholic population varies considerably by region, Pew notes. For example, in the Midwest, 80% of Catholics are white and 17% are Hispanic. In the Northeast, 72% of Catholics are white and 19% are Hispanic.

In the South, 49% are white and 40% are Hispanic. And in the West, there are more Hispanic Catholics than white Catholics (55% vs. 30%), Pew says.

  • About a third of U.S. Catholics (32%) have a bachelor’s degree.

Another 28% have some college experience but not a bachelor’s degree, and 40% have a high school education or less — a distribution similar to that of the general adult population.

  • Just 3 in 10 U.S. Catholics (28%) say they attend Mass weekly or more often.

Pew compared this figure with the share of Protestants who attend weekly services, which they say is 40%.

Larger shares of Catholics say they pray daily (52%) and say religion is very important in their life (46%), Pew says. Overall, 20% of U.S. Catholics say they attend Mass weekly and pray daily and consider religion very important in their life.

By contrast, 10% of self-identified Catholics say they attend Mass a few times a year or less often, pray seldom or never, and consider religion “not too” or “not at all” important in their life.

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