Friday, July 3, 2009

Michael Bell on inflows and outflows

Somehow I managed to miss one of the best post in May written by Michael Bell, Looking at the Pew Forum’s “Changes in Religious Affiliation” Data. You can Pew Report for the source data. This is a statistical analysis of inflows and outflows from major religions to one another tracking people longitudinally not as groups/percentages of the population. This graphic is from the article and shows how the major groups flow into one another. Because this is a longitudinal study you get interesting results. For example, Catholicism in the graph is shrinking because US catholics convert out in high numbers but other convert in in low numbers. On the other hand there has been strong Hispanic (Catholic) immigration which why their percentage of the population has remained steady if you don't look longitudinally.

It is also worth noting these are self identification numbers, which are much much higher than measures that use attendance. Bell followed this up with a follow up strategy post and then a post on non religious retention rates ( Its a lot easier to be non religious).

Main points:
  • My comments above about Catholic retention.
  • None (no affiliation): This group has terrible retention (about 50%) but fantastic evangelism. The growth of this group and a new form of Christianity targeted to them has generally been what has led to revivals. Yet more evidence that the Emerging Church is correct in their assessments.
  • Evangelical Christianity is facing a falling retention rate and this is creating a demographic problem similar to the one that the mainline churches faced over the last 2 generations. It is not growing and is aging rapidly, which could cause a drop in retention ....
  • Mainline churches aren't losing members and have break even retention. They were suffering from a low birth rate and they just swap members with evangelical churches.
  • Explicitly and exclusively black protestant church are currently pulling people in from other groups and demonstrating the best retention. It appears Sunday morning going to be more segregated moving forward and black protestantism is going to continue to be a very important part of the religious landscape.
  • People who are going to change 79% of the time do it by 23 and about 3.5% after 36. The age change numbers are essentially the same for all groups. Basically if you are interested in evangelism, late high school and college age is essentially the only opportunity to do this in large numbers (again consistent with emerging church views).
  • Non religious retention (that is not just not affiliated but rather atheist, agnostic...) has skyrocketed. This is what the graph on the left shows.
See also:


Andrew S said...

Great site here...haven't checked too many (although I saw your post "10 really good Bibles..." and I think I'm going to pick up the Unvarnished NT and the Jewish Study Bible.)

anyway...interesting graph...I guess I'm a bit disappointed though...even though I know Mormons are only 1.7% of it and are included in "other" (as Michael's and the Pew's notes detail), I'd be very interested to see how the inflow and outflow plays out specifically. In particularly, I'd want to see if more ex-mormons become "none" or if they become some other Christian denomination.

CD-Host said...

Hi Andrew --

For a child raised Mormon:
70% stay Mormon
15% convert to None
14% convert to one of the other groups.

They don't break it down beyond that.

Which looks a lot Hindu's or Buddhists. Probably Mormon conversions take 2 generations. So from here on I'm infer and YMMV. Mormons have the 2nd highest rate of homogeneous marriages but it appears when Mormons marry out they convert out. That similar to what happened with Jews in the 1950s. The result was a change in Jewish attitude towards intermarriage. My guess is that this their real bleed, not handling intermarriage well. But that is my guess.

CD-Host said...

Andrew --

BTW I'm glad the other post was helpful and I think you'll love those two bibles.

Kevin Sam said...

CD, when I see black protestantism with such a small percentage in comparison to the rest of the church, it doesn't seem to feel accurate given that African Americans are 13-14% of the U.S. population. I’d assume that this may be so if we assume that some African Americans attend non-black churches. And Asian Christians/churches are just lumped in with either RCC/Evanelical/Mainline.

Andrew S said...

Kevin Sam,

Pew has a page that "breaks down" Black religious membership here:

Only about 59% of black people polled are in historically black protestant churches. ~13% of the American population x 59% of the black population gets you the ~7% that you see in the chart.

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