February 13, 2014
Brain & Behavior
Despite their strong pro-family values, evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates — in fact, being more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion, according to findings as cited by researchers from Baylor University.
The research is part of a new report released by the Council on Contemporary Families.
The council report coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, national origin, religion or gender. The council’s report, which included findings by a dozen researchers, dealt with changes in the past half century for each of the populations affected by the law: religious groups, racial and ethnic minorities and women.
Baylor’s portion of the report dealt with 50 years of religious change, from 1964 to 2014. Other findings by Baylor were:
• The proportion of Americans who do not identify with any religious tradition has grown dramatically — from 3 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today — despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans professed a belief in God or a higher power.
• Protestants have declined in their share of the American adult population, from 70 percent in the 1950s to a little less than 50 percent today.
• The protracted decline in Protestant shares of the American population is largely due to the decline of Mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians), whose numbers have halved over the same time period.
• Evangelicals rapidly increased their share of the population until the early 1990s, but that segment has experienced some decline since then.
• The percentage of Catholics has remained steady, but their ethnic makeup has changed dramatically due to steady Latino immigration.
• The proportion of people who affiliate with non-Judeo-Christian religions has doubled since the 1950s.
Baylor researchers included Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences; and Joshua Tom and Brita Andercheck, doctoral candidates in the department of sociology.
Tom used the General Social Survey for the analysis. The General Social Survey has been conducted at regular intervals from 1972 to 2012 (every year from 1972 to 1994, except in 1979, 1981 and 1992 and every other year since 1994). Over the 29 national samples taken through the history of the project, nearly 60,000 American adults have been surveyed.
For more information, visit the Council of Contemporary Families site at http://www.contemporaryfamilies.org/50-years-of-religious-change/