Nineteen Sixty-four is a research blog for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University edited by Mark M. Gray. CARA is a non-profit research center that conducts social scientific studies about the Catholic Church. Founded in 1964, CARA has three major dimensions to its mission: to increase the Catholic Church's self understanding; to serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers; and to advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism. Follow CARA on Twitter at: caracatholic.


Jesuit Global Demographics in 2018

This post is by Georges Alsankary and Thomas Gaunt, SJ and is released for the feast day (tomorrow, Dec. 21) of St. Peter Canisius, SJ (1521–1597). It is the third post in a series (1, 2) in which CARA tracks changes among the Jesuits worldwide.

The Jesuits are the world’s largest religious order with active ministries spanning across six continents. They steadily increased in number from their restoration in 1814 until 1965 when they reached their peak membership of 36,000.  Since 1965 the total number of Jesuits worldwide has declined to 15,842 in 2017 but most notably the membership of the Jesuits has dramatically realigned by culture and ethnicity. Recent developments show a change in growth and expansion of the population of Jesuits: the largest national group used to be the US Jesuits, but now is the Jesuits of India. Africa and Asia have numerous young Jesuits, whereas Europe and North America are challenged by a large number of elderly Jesuits.

Worldwide the changing number of Jesuits is driven by three factors: the number of men entering the novitiate, the number of men departing the Jesuits, and the number of Jesuits that die each year. A growth in the number of Jesuit usually implies entrance groups being larger in number than the groups who leave or die. A steady decline would be the reverse of this.

For administrative purposes the Society of Jesus is organized into 76 provinces and independent regions.  They then grouped into six geographic conferences or assistancies:
  • Africa – All of Africa and Madagascar except North Africa.
  • Latin America – All of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
  • South Asia – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Bhutan.
  • Asia Pacific – Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, East Timor, New Zealand, and Myanmar.
  • Europe – Europe, Russia, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa.
  • North America – United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize and Micronesia
Note: Canada used to be part of the European assistancy, and Puerto Rico used to be in the Latin American assistancy. Both are currently in the North American assistancy as of 2016. Data has been adjusted to reflect these changes.

Overall Numbers:
The Data below shows the total number of Jesuits at ten year intervals (1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017).
Both Africa and South Asia are showing steady increase in the number of Jesuits, while both Latin America and Asia Pacific are decreasing in numbers. The Assistancies of Europe and North America show a steep decline in membership, more than 50% over the same 30 years.  If the trend continues the South Asia Assistancy will soon be the largest outnumbering Europe, North America, and Latin America.

Entering novices:
The number of novices entering the novitiate of each province can vary significantly year by year, therefore a more accurate picture is provided if we look at how many men enter the novitiate over five year intervals.  The graph below shows a stabilization over the past ten years in the number of novices entering in the Society of Jesus, even in places where there was previously a sharp decline.

The distribution of entering novices remains largely the same with respect to what it was 5 years ago: South Asia has the largest number, followed by Africa and Latin America. The clear majority of the younger Jesuits (64%) are still coming from Asia and Africa.

Departures from the Jesuits:
The Jesuits, like all other religious institutes experience a departure of a large number of the men who enter the novitiate, these departures usually occur in the years of formation before ordination (often ten years after entering) or final vows (often 15 to 20 years after entering). The general pattern of departures follows the earlier pattern of entrances for each assistancy, and the number of departures across the assistancies are close to what they were 5 years ago, and markedly lower than the past number of departures 15 or 20 years ago.

Entrants minus Departures:
The sustainability of the membership of a religious community relies on their being more entrances than departures over the course of years.  The graph below shows the gain or loss for each assistancy of the Jesuits in five-year periods over the past 30 years.  South Asia and Africa have had large sustained gains in members in each period of time.  Asia Pacific has shown a smaller, but stabilizing gain, and Europe a diminished but stabilizing gain. The North America has shown periods of a loss of members (more men departing than entering over a five-year period), although it now shows a net gain in recent years, while Latin America has only recently shown a small increase.

Number of Deaths
The vast majority of older Jesuits who entered prior to 1960 are in Europe and North America, and there are fewer older Jesuits in Africa and Asia. The Jesuits in Europe and North America have consistently accounted for about two-thirds of all the deaths over the past 30 years while the proportion of European and North American Jesuits have gone from 60% to 44% percent of the Jesuit membership.

Entrances minus Departures minus Deaths: Net Gain or Loss
When the number of men leaving the Jesuits is subtracted from the number entering and then the number of deaths are subtracted from that figure, we have the net gain or loss in Jesuit membership.  In combining these three basic demographic elements we see clearly the large and continuous impact of the declining number of Jesuits in Europe and North America, and to a lesser extent Latin America.  Only Africa and  Asia Pacific consistently record any net gain in Jesuits year over year, and that gain is dwarfed by the losses of Europe and North America. While Africa and South Asia may have a net gain of 100 to 200 Jesuits over a five-year period, Europe and North America have a net loss 1,200 to 1,300 Jesuits.

The membership trends observed five years ago have not significantly changed: the number of Jesuits are stabilizing across the board in all parts of the world, and there are no dramatic shifts in any particular region; there is a slight decline in the number of men entering the novitiate, but it is accompanied by a stabilization in the numbers of deaths, which makes for a reduced net decrease over time.

The very large number of Jesuits in Europe and North America who die each year is the main demographic factor driving the geographic shift of Jesuits as the net decline in the number of Jesuits worldwide is slowing down.

The continued growth in the number of younger Jesuits in Africa and South Asia means that there will be a continuing re-alignment of where Jesuits are serving the Church.  If the trends continue, the Society of Jesus will in the coming decade or two be defined more by the cultures and experiences of Asia and Africa, and less by Europe and North America.

Image courtesy of Sharon M Leon.


Political Divide is a Constant Among Catholics

Although the media (and many pollsters) continue to be infatuated with how Evangelicals vote it is really American Catholics that are always the most interesting at election time. Evangelicals vote Republican in consistent majorities. Catholics are the only major religious group in the United States that are fairly evenly split between the parties and the manner in which they lean often tilt the results one way or the other.

Overall, 52.3% of voting eligible Catholics turned out for the midterms (Sources: AP, Fox News, NORC and the United States Election Project). The map below shows where Catholics voted for Democrats over Republicans (blue states) and where they chose Republicans over Democrats (red states). No data is available in five states and the District Columbia. The state level data is based on Senate or gubernatorial elections (governor’s races are only used in states without Senate contests).

The overall vote of Catholics was evenly split with 47% voting for Democrats and 47% voting for Republicans (Edison Research’s exit polls estimated Catholics voted 50% Democrat and 49% Republican nationally. CARA does not utilize Edison here because they only ask a religious affiliation question in state-level polling in a very small number of states). Catholics voted Republican in 23 states (that will encompass 221 Electoral College votes looking ahead to 2020) and they voted Democrat in 21 states (274 Electoral College votes). The map below shows the intensity of the red or blue vote shares.

It is also important to note that an estimated 23.4 million eligible Catholics did not vote in the 2018 midterms. The Catholic voting eligible population (VEP) totals 49 million (Catholic voting age population, including non-citizens and others ineligible to vote, is 53 million). Catholics made up 23% of all voters, which is larger than the share of self-identified Catholics among U.S. adults (21%). While the 2018 results offer some insight into what might happen in 2020 it is also important to consider that some of the Senate and gubernatorial election dynamics (e.g., Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin winning in West Virginia) are unlikely to be reproduced in a national contest and more Catholics will likely go to the polls in 2020.


The Contribution of Religious Sisters to Parochial Schools in the United States

This post is authored by CARA researchers Michal Kramarek and Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ (also CARA's Executive Director). It provides a brief look at the contribution of religious sisters to the parochial schools in the United States. The bibliographic information for the references included in the text can be found here

Written discourse about Catholic parochial schools in the United States has been in decline since 1970’s. In fact, after enjoying over a century of higher attention, the frequency with which the topic appears in American publications in recent years is reverting to levels prior to the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore of 1884 (as shown in the chart below).

While the motto of “Every Catholic child in a Catholic school” attributed to the Council was never fulfilled (Hunt and Kunkel 1988, 286), the accomplishments of those who often committed their entire lives to its pursuit are nonetheless remarkable. The scale of those accomplishments can be illustrated by the sheer size of the parochial school system in its heyday, in the 1960’s:
  • In 1960, there were 68 Catholic schools for every 100 Catholic parishes (Kenedy 1961).
  • In 1963-1964, there was an all-time high of 13,205 Catholic elementary and secondary schools (Snyder 1993, 49).
  • In 1965-1966, there was an all-time high of 5.6 million baby boomers in Catholic elementary and secondary schools which constituted 87 percent of nonpublic school enrollment (Hunt and Kunkel 1988, 277) and 12 percent of the entire Catholic population (Kenedy 1966).
  • In the 1960s, “[t]here was hardly a town of more than 30,000 inhabitants in the United States lacking a parochial school” (Stewart 1994, 428).
Those remarkable accomplishments bring about the issue of how it was all possible. After all, the financial cost of such an undertaking must have been considerable. Or, was it? The answer to this question depends on the point of reference. For example, Burns (1912, 290-293) estimated the overall cost of education in Catholic parish schools nationwide (including cost of maintenance, salaries, supplies, apparatus, heat and light, repairs, interest and insurance), in 1909, at $9,898,008 ($268 million in 2017 dollars). By comparison, he estimated the cost of the equivalent education in public schools to be over three times higher, at $30,511,010.

The rise and decline of Catholic parochial schools appears to be partially a function of changes in the relative cost of operating those schools. The changes in relative cost were, in turn, primarily driven by the immense sacrificial service contributed by religious sisters (e.g., Burns 1912, 284; Stewart 1994, 327). In strictly financial terms, this sacrificial service can be measured as the difference between the amount of salary received by lay teachers in public schools and the amount of salary-equivalent/stipend received by religious sisters in parochial schools (i.e., the salary forgone, for a lack of better term) multiplied by the number of religious sisters in teaching positions.

In regard to the first factor, the salary forgone, the table below summarizes available historical estimates for the stipend of religious sisters in teaching positions. In available years, this stipend was roughly one quarter of the salary of lay teachers in public schools. A caveat should be added that this comparison, while illustrative, is severely limited, because it does not account for many differences between the two groups (e.g., value of room and board, educational requirements, average amount of teaching experience, additional sources of income, retirement funding, or cost of living).

It is also important to point out that the sacrifice of the sisters is larger than the ratio might be implying, because a salary’s utility does not change linearly (i.e., reducing the disposable income does not reduce the quality of life as much as reducing the income needed to cover basic expenses). Sisters monetary compensation shown in the table below is so low by today’s standards it is hard to imagine to us today. Notably, it was also hard to imagine in the past. For example, Oates (1985, 184) described a situation where “[e]ven though salaries paid religious brothers were approximately twice those provided sisters for the same work the men found them insufficient.” Stewart (1994, 322, 408) described sisters’ frugality as “extreme” and their wages to be “meager,” and only allowing for “bare subsistence.”

In regard to the second factor lowering the cost of parochial schools, the chart below shows the number of religious sisters in teaching positions. Notably, the highest number of religious sisters in teaching positions was recorded in 1965 when the parochial system was about to reach its all-time high (as described above). However, the number of religious sisters as a percentage of all teachers in parochial schools was already in decline, which might be an indication that the salary cost increase outpaced the system growth. This might have exacerbated the decline beyond what was the result of decreasing number of religious sisters in the following decades.

A caveat should be added here that other reasons also played a role in the decline of the parochial school system. Those reasons include, for example, public school systems catching up with the rapid population growth, the migration of Catholic population from cities to suburbs, and from Northeast to West (thus away from places where parochial schools were established).

So, how much of the difference did the religious sisters make? What was their contribution as measured by, so to speak, the amount of forgone salary? In 1965, when the Catholic education system was at its largest, an estimated 103,314 religious sisters held teaching positions (Stewart 1994, 419). In this period, religious sisters received approximately one third of the salaries made by lay teachers in Catholic schools (Hesburgh, Hochwalt, and Shuster 1966) and salaries of lay teachers in Catholic schools were 5 percent to 10 percent lower than salaries of lay teachers in public schools (Koob and Shaw 1970). The annual amount of salary paid to lay teachers in public schools was $6,935 (Snyder 1993, 46-48). Based on those numbers, the sacrificial service of religious sisters teaching in Catholic schools in 1965 alone allowed the Catholic schools to save an estimated $0.5 billion ($3.8 billion in 2017 dollars) relative to public schools.

It is important to point out that those large aggregate amounts are only possible due to daily sacrifices of religious sisters that accrued over a lifetime of teaching work. “[The] phenomenal expansion [of the parochial schools] would have been impossible without sacrificial giving by laity and commitment by the rapidly increasing numbers of sisters who taught without remuneration beyond bare subsistence” (Stewart 1994, 322).

While the attention of those leading the discourse about the needs of the Catholic community in the United States shifts to other, important topics, we may be well advised to remember the extraordinary financial contribution that tens of thousands of sisters made to the Catholic Church each year for decades- as much as $3.8 billion in a single year.

Top image source: Sister Joellen Kohlmann teaching religion at Guardian Angels Central Catholic High School from “Nuns getting harder to find in Catholic schools.” Please read this story for more context to the research presented in this post. Photographer and author of that story: Jerry Guenther, Norfolk Daily News.

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