Researchers drew on sources such as diocesan data, which includes the figures in the Official Catholic Directory. They also drew on vital statistics, sacramental statistics, and survey statistics from sources such as the Pew Forum. The quality and completeness of diocesan data can vary greatly, and data collection was made more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This survey reports the lowest number of Catholics compared with other recent surveys. By comparison, the 2018 National Opinion Research Center General Social Survey reported 76.6 million Catholics, about 23% of the U.S. population, while the Official Catholic Directory says there are about 67.6 million Catholics in the U.S.
The Catholic Church has been the single-largest religious body in the U.S. for more than a century. The average number of adherents per congregation is 3,000 for Catholics, unusually high compared with other groups. No other group had as many as 2,000 adherents per congregation, and only five others had as many as 1,000.
Large Catholic congregations are especially common in the West, where there are 4,700 Catholics per congregation.
Catholics are overrepresented in urban locations and underrepresented in rural areas. They also are the largest religious body in 36 U.S. states. Southern Baptists comprise the largest religious body in nine states in the U.S. South. Nondenominational Christians predominate in Alaska, Washington state, and West Virginia, while adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, predominate in Idaho and Utah.
Unlike in 2010, Catholics no longer comprise the largest body of religious adherents in Alaska and Washington state. However, they have become the largest religious body in two other states, Missouri and Virginia.
At the county level, Catholics are most prevalent mainly in New Mexico and in Texas along the Rio Grande. There is at least one Catholic congregation in 2,961 U.S. counties, a feat second only to the United Methodists.
The religion census reported on other Christian denominations and religious groups. It found almost 21.1 million nondenominational Christians in more than 44,000 congregations, 17.6 million Southern Baptist adherents in more than 51,000 congregations, and 8 million United Methodists in 30,000 congregations.
United Methodist numbers could decline significantly due to changing circumstances. Many American United Methodists have rejected communion with global Methodism and deny historic Christian teaching on matters such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and sexual ethics. Last weekend, hundreds of congregations in Texas alone voted to disaffiliate with United Methodism. Many are expected to join the Global Methodist Church, a new denomination.
As for other religious bodies, the religion census reported 6.7 million Latter-day Saint adherents in 14,000 congregations and an estimated 4.4 million Muslims in 2,700 congregations.
The top 10 largest religious bodies include several million other Americans who are adherents, respectively, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Assemblies of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the predominantly African American National Missionary Baptist Convention.
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Other Christian and non-Christian minorities did not fall within the top 10 largest religious bodies. Among other non-Christian groups, the census counted one Baha’i group, three Buddhist groups, three Hindu groups, and four Jewish groups.