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Catholicism still largest faith of US Latinos, despite rise of ‘nones’

Lone Hispanic woman in church

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J-P Mauro - published on 04/27/23

Latinos born in the United States were found to be much less likely to identify as Catholic than those who immigrated to the nation.

While the Catholic faith remains the largest religious affiliation of Latinos in the United States, a new study from Pew Research Center has found a distinct rise in those who fall under the category of religious “nones.” The findings are based on a 2022 survey of 7,647 US adults, including 3,029 Hispanics, living in the United States. 

The most striking numbers of the study were seen in the portion of Latino Americans who claim Catholicism as their faith. In 2010, it was estimated that 67% of the US Latino population was Catholic, but by 2022 only 43% cited Catholicism as their religion. While some of these have switched to various denominations of the Protestant faith, many more now identify as religious “nones,” with 30% calling themselves religiously unaffiliated. This figure is up from 10% in 2010, and places the Latino population on par with the national average.

US culture since birth

Latinos born in the United States were found to be much less likely to identify as Catholic than those who immigrated to the nation.

Among US Latinos, it is estimated that nearly 80% of those aged 18 – 29 were born in the US and nearly half of these (49%) identify as religiously unaffiliated. By contrast, only one in five Latinos aged 50+ identify as a religious “none,” with 56% of this age group born outside the US. Overall, US Latino Catholics barely hold the majority in their demographic, with just 52% identifying as Catholic. 

Although 65% of US Latinos cited growing up to the Catholic faith, only 43% said they were currently Catholic. Switching faiths from Catholicism to Protestantism was one of the leading causes of this downward trend, with nearly one-quarter of the population calling themselves “former Catholics.” It is estimated that for every 23 Latinos who have left the Church, only one has converted to the Catholic faith. 

Hosffman Ospino, a Boston College professor with years of experience examining the role of Hispanic Catholics in the future of the Catholic Church in the U.S., related his lack of surprise over the changing figures in an interview with OSV. He noted that his studies have shown that this shift from Catholicism within US Latino communities has been happening steadily over decades. 

“What this (Pew study) reveals in many ways is that the Catholic Church somehow was banking on the large growth of immigrant Hispanics who are Catholic,” Ospino said. “Now the question is: Are we ready to face the reality that evangelization in the following decades is going to be largely focused on those children and grandchildren of immigrants from Latin America, the U.S.-born generation?”

Read more of Hosffman Ospino’s interview with OSV at America.

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