Thursday, February 28, 2008

Putting PEW in perspective

The PEW study has begun to make the rounds and the interpretations are emerging from the Jewish community. You can read the JTA article by Sue Fishkoff at this link:
One thing that I wanted clarified was, how did PEW get the percent of intermarriage to be so much lower than NJPS did? So I emailed Dr. Bruce Phillips. Here’s his answer:
They are looking only at Jew by religion. Secular Jews are more likely to marry a non-Jew. The rate reported by NJPS was something like 48%, so these two estimates are probably not all that far off.
For those of us who like to ponder numbers he adds:
The highest possible rate for Protestants, by the way, is 50% since half the country is Protestant. You have to remember the ceiling when comparing religions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Religion in America: 2008 PEW Study

Yesterday a friend of mine, a research librarian, emailed me the link to the brand new:
U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2008
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

This morning on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle was the story:
28% of us have left our childhood religion
Check your local papers and send me what they printed.

I read through the Pew report yesterday and picked out the Jewish elements and those national religion parts that I believe reflects on the American Jewish community. Take a look for yourself.

U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2008
Source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

The Landscape Survey confirms that, indeed, there is a remarkable amount of movement by Americans from one religious group to another. Together with other sources of change in religious affiliation, such as immigration and fertility rates, this shifting helps account for the great dynamism of American religion. Looking only at changes from one major religious tradition to another (e.g., from Protestantism to Catholicism, or from Judaism to no religion), more than one-in-four U.S. adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised.
pp. 22

EVERYONE is leaving religion, not just the Jews.

Net Winners and Losers
Which groups are the net winners and losers in the dynamic process of shifting religious affiliation? By comparing the distribution of the current religious affiliations of U.S. adults with their childhood religious affiliations, the Landscape Survey is able to provide a clear sense of the net effect of these movements within American religion.

The biggest gains due to changes in religious affiliation have been among those who say they are not affiliated with any particular religious group or tradition. Overall, 7.3% of the adult population says they were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child. Today, however, 16.1% of adults say they are unaffiliated, a net increase of 8.8 percentage points. Sizeable numbers of those raised in all religions – from Catholicism to Protestantism to Judaism – are currently unaffiliated with any particular religion.

American Jewish population
Americans raised Jewish are 1.9% of the population. Americans now Jewish are 1.7% of the population, a loss of 0.2%

The Dynamics of Religious Change
As stated above, although there are net winners and losers in the process of religious change, no group is simply losing members or simply gaining members. Rather, each religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing members. To get the most complete picture of the dynamism of the American religious landscape, one must look at the total number of people entering and leaving each religion.

Of the American Jewish population:
Raised Jewish 1.9%
Converted to Judaism + 0.3%
Left Judaism - 0.5%
Now Jewish 1.7%

(If conversion increases by a mere .2% we will be gaining as many Jews as we are losing. Interesting thought. What would all that positive energy and engagement say to the born Jews?)

Affiliation Patterns: Coming, Going and Staying Put
In addition to documenting the high degree of religious movement in the U.S. population and the net winners and losers from changes in affiliation, analysis of the Landscape Survey also details which groups are most heavily comprised of people who have changed their affiliation, what faiths these people came from and which religious groups are most successful at retaining their childhood members.

The religious traditions most heavily comprised of people who have switched affiliation include the unaffiliated, Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of the “other faiths” category (e.g., Unitarians, members of New Age groups and members of Native American religions) and members of the “other Christian” tradition (including metaphysical Christians). For instance, more than two-thirds of Jehovah’s Witnesses were raised in some other faith or were not affiliated with any particular religion as a child, as were nearly three-quarters of Buddhists. Among people who are currently unaffiliated with any particular religion, nearly eight-in-ten were raised as members of one religion or another.
(I remember a fellow on a panel of adult children from interfaith homes saying his parents had "compromised" and become Unitarians. He has since become Jewish. He said, "No one is born and stays Unitarian. You either enter or leave it." Interesting perspective.)

Hindus, Catholics and Jews are the groups with the lowest proportion of members who have switched affiliation
to these respective faiths. Overall, nine-in-ten Hindus were raised Hindu, 89% of Catholics were raised Catholic and 85% of Jews were raised Jewish.
(Ask yourself, what do these three groups share?)

15% raised Jewish switched religions
85% raised Jewish and remain Jewish

pp. 27

where did the new members come from?
Now Jewish:
5% Protestant
3% Catholic
2% all other faiths
5% not raised in a Faith
15% (of the total Jewish population = converts)

pp. 29

Retention of Childhood Members
Finally, the Landscape Survey makes it possible to look at which groups are most successful in retaining their childhood members. Hinduism exhibits the highest overall retention rate, with more than eight-in-ten (84%) adults who were raised as Hindu still identifying themselves as Hindu. The Mormon, Orthodox and Jewish traditions all have retention rates of at least 70%, while the retention rate for Catholics is 68%.

As mentioned previously, the group that has exhibited the strongest growth as a result of changes in affiliation is the unaffiliated population. Nevertheless, the overall retention rate of the unaffiliated population is relatively low (46%) compared with other groups. This means that more than half (54%) of those who were not affiliated with any particular religion as a child now identify themselves as members of one religion or another.

Two of the religious groups with the lowest retention rates are Jehovah’s Witnesses and Buddhists. Only slightly more than a third (37%) of adults who were raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses still identify themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of all of those who were raised as Buddhists (50%) are still Buddhists.

Of the Jewish population:
76% were born Jewish and remain Jewish
9% converted to another religion
14% converted to no religion
pp. 30

(Compare with Protestant)
Overall, then, 80% of those who were raised as Protestant are still Protestant,
either within the same denominational family in which they were raised (52%) or within another Protestant family (28%). So only one-in-five (20%) adults who were raised as Protestant have left Protestantism altogether (7% for a non-Protestant religion and 13% for no religion at all).

Who Changes Affiliation?
Though the rates of change in affiliation among the different age groups are fairly comparable, there are interesting generational differences in the types of affiliation changes people undergo.
Among people age 70 and older, for instance, more than half of people who have changed affiliation have switched affiliation from one family to another within a religious tradition (e.g., from one Protestant denominational family to another). Among those under age 30, by contrast, roughly three-quarters of those who have changed affiliation left one religious tradition for another (e.g., left Protestantism for Catholicism) or for no religion at all.

With respect to other demographic characteristics, the Landscape Survey reveals few major demographic differences in the rates of religious change.

For instance, men are only slightly more likely to switch affiliation than women (45% vs. 42%).

Similarly, there are few differences among adults with different educational backgrounds. Americans with a high school education or less are only somewhat less likely to have switched affiliation from the religion in which they were raised (41%) than people with at least some college education, college graduates and people with a post-graduate education (46%, 45% and 47%, respectively).

Religiously Mixed Marriages and Changes in Affiliation
The Landscape Survey finds that 27% of married people are in religiously mixed marriages. If marriages between people of different Protestant denominational families are included, the number of married people in religiously mixed marriages is nearly four-in-ten (37%). Among married couples, young people are more likely to be in religiously mixed marriages as compared with their older counterparts.
Among all the major religious traditions, Hindus and Mormons are most likely to have a spouse with the same religion (90% and 83%, respectively). Nearly four-in-five Catholics (78%) and seven-in-ten Jews (69%) are also married to someone with the same religious affiliation. By contrast, majorities of the unaffiliated population, members of the “other faiths” category and Buddhists are married to someone of a different religious background than their own. For example, only four-in-ten (41%) unaffiliated adults are married to a spouse who is also unaffiliated.

For Jews, Spouse is:
same religion 69%
Different religion 31%
Protestant 7%
Catholic 12%
all other religions 3%
No religious affiliation 8%

The Landscape Survey findings also make it possible to gauge, at least indirectly, the importance of marriage in changes in religious affiliation.

To the extent that people change their religious affiliation to match that of their spouse, one would expect to find lower rates of religiously mixed marriages among people who have changed affiliation than among those who have not switched. In fact, the survey finds just the opposite to be true: The incidence of religiously mixed marriages is much higher among people who have switched affiliation (50%) than among married people who have retained the religious affiliation of their youth (28%).

Intermarriage and Change in Affiliation

Spouse has...
Same religion Different religion
All married people 63% 37%
Married, has not changed religion 72% 28%
Married, has changed religion 50% 50%

Religious Composition of Age Groups
Jewish 2% of total population
18 - 29 2% of age group
30 - 39 2%
40 - 49 1%
50 - 59 1%
60 - 69 1%
70+ 2%

Age Distribution of Religious Traditions
Jews, too, tend to be older than other religious groups, with 51% age 50 and older.
Jewish population
age 18 - 29 20%
age 30 - 49 29%
age 50 - 65 29%
age 65+ 22%

Religious Affiliation of Racial and Ethnic Groups
Jewish - total percent of population is 2%
of white population 2%
Of Black population <0.5%
Of Asian population <0.5%
Other (mixed race) 1%
Latino <0.5%

Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., blacks are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation.

Asians are the ethnic group most likely to be unaffiliated.

In the Landscape Survey, a solid majority of Hispanics (58%) identify as Catholic, but nearly one-in-four are members of evangelical (16%) or other (8%) Protestant churches. Hispanics are about as likely as blacks to say they have no religious affiliation, and very few (2%) say they are atheist or agnostic.

Nearly a third (30%) of all whites are members of evangelical churches, almost twice the number who identify as unaffiliated (16%). About one-in-five (22%) whites are Catholic and a similar number (23%) are members of mainline Protestant churches.

Racial and Ethnic Distribution of Religious Traditions: Jewish

White 95%
Black 1%
Asian 0%
mixed 2%
Latino 3%

(I am going to email Diane and Gary Tobin about these numbers. They don't feel - or look - like the bay area community to me.)

Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are composed of slightly more men than women.

Educational Levels of Religious Groups
Education level: less than HS High Sch some college college grad postgrad
Total Population: 14 36 23 16 11
Jewish 3 19 19 24 35

(If you stay in college longer, you probably delay having kids...)

Number of Children at Home for Religious Traditions: Jewish
0 children under 18 in home 72%
One child under 18 in home 9%
Two Children under 18 living 11%
Three plus 8%