The U.S. Catholic population continues to grow and is projected to exceed 100 million by 2050
The U.S. Catholic population continues to grow and is projected to exceed 100 million by 2050.
At the same time, the number of infant baptisms and marriages in the U.S. Catholic Church has declined in number each year since 2001. In 2009, there were 12.7 infant baptisms and 2.7 marriages in the Church per 1,000 Catholics. Although nearly all Catholic parents continue to baptize their children in the Church (as the birthrate declines) many Catholics are choosing to get married in non-Catholic houses of worship or secular settings.
Yet even as the recent trend in infant baptisms is down slightly, there are still enough people joining the Catholic Church each year to sustain the population. In 2009, The Official Catholic Directory reported 857,410 infant baptisms, 43,279 adult baptisms, and 75,724 receptions into full communion in U.S. dioceses. This totals 976,413 in one year. To put that in context, the number of new Catholics in 2009 would make this one-year cohort of new Catholics approximately the 26th largest membership Christian church in the United States.
The likelihood that a Catholic will marry a non-Catholic is strongly and directly related to the likelihood that a Catholic will be in close proximity to other Catholics. In dioceses where Catholics make up only 10% of the total population, the average percentage of interfaith marriages celebrated in parishes is 41%. By comparison, this average is only 16% where 40% or more of the total population in a diocese is Catholic.
On the institutional side, if the current trend in parish closures were to continue and current priest projections bear out, there will likely be only 12,520 active diocesan priests and 14,825 parishes in the United States by 2035 (also in OSV).
There has been no measurable decline or increase in Mass attendance percentages nationally in the last decade. Just under one in four Catholics attends Mass every week. About a third of Catholics attend in any given week and more than two-thirds attend Mass at Christmas, Easter, and on Ash Wednesday. More than four in ten self-identified adult Catholics attend Mass at least once a month.
A majority, 54%, of the adults of the Catholic Millennial Generation (those ages 18-28 in 2010) in the United States self-identify as Hispanic/Latino(a). In the late-2030s there will likely be more Catholics who self-identify as Hispanic/Latino overall than those who do not.
A minority of Americans of Irish ancestry self-identify their religion as Catholic. At the same time, the size of the Irish Catholic population has been stable in recent decades as Catholics of Italian, German, and Polish ancestry have declined a bit. The number of Catholics noting Mexican ancestry increased dramatically in the 2000s.
About 3.5 million U.S. residents self-identify their race as Black, African American, Afro-Caribbean, or African and their religion as Catholic. Of these Black Catholics, 42% also self-identified their ethnicity as Hispanic.
The average tuition for the first child of Catholic parents attending a parish Catholic primary school for 2008-2009 was $3,383. For that same child the per-pupil cost of education for 2008-2009 was $5,436. This means that only 63% of this child’s per-pupil cost was covered by their tuition.
Many Catholic colleges are providing a “return on investment” for the tuitions paid. Yet there are mixed short-term effects for changes in Catholic beliefs and practice among those attending Catholic colleges with more consistently positive long-term effects evident as well.