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.


Deconstructing the American Weekend: Where Religion Fits In

Were there too many empty pews in your church last weekend? Just what was everyone else doing while you were at Mass?

A great resource for understanding what Americans do is the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which is conducted by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve previously used ATUS and other similar studies to look at generational differences in religious practice over time.

The ATUS interviews respondents from a large, nationally representative, random sample of households (more than 26,000) over the course of a year. Respondents are asked how they spent their time the day before they were interviewed (from 4 a.m. to 4 a.m.). The survey inquires as such: “So let's begin. Yesterday, at 4:00 AM, what were you doing?” The duration of activities are recorded and the day and night is filled out. Respondents can and do indicate that they multitask (i.e., do more than one thing at a time). The advantage of conducting a time use study is that the research is not directly inquiring about activities. So respondents are not asked, “Did you go to religious services?” (…when asked directly by Gallup, about four in ten Americans say they’ve gone to religious services in the week prior to being interviewed). In the ATUS, church attendance is only recorded if the respondent brings this up. This creates more accurate estimates of what people are actually doing (something we’ve covered before: 1, 2).

The table below shows the ATUS results for 2013 for what Americans (ages 15 and older) did on Saturdays and Sundays combined (…note this includes people of any religious affiliation or no affiliation). Nearly four in ten hours of the day on a weekend (38.9%) is spent asleep (an average of 9.34 hours per day). Nearly all Americans report time spent on leisure activities (e.g., socializing, relaxing, using entertainment content) on the weekend, averaging 5.73 hours per day (24% of weekend time). Of this weekend leisure time, 60% is spent watching television (2.57 hours per day). The only other activity that nearly all Americans report doing is eating and drinking and this takes on average, 1.21 hours per day on the weekend (5% of weekend time). One in five Americans works on the weekend (20.7%). Of those who do so, they spend on average 5.48 hours per day on the job. In CARA’s national surveys of adult Catholics we ask respondents for reasons that explain why they have missed Mass. Work is one of the top reasons cited (also illness).

After sleeping, leisure activities, eating and drinking, and work (for some) there is a scattering of other things done more frequently, on average, than religious or spiritual activities. These include: grooming (74.7% engaging for an average of 0.9 hours), housework (35.5% engaging for an average of 1.82 hours), food preparation and cleanup (53.7% engaging for an average of 1.18 hours), consumer goods purchases (42.2% engaging for an average of 1.17 hours), sports, exercise, and recreation (18.8% engaging for an average of 2.18 hours), caring for and helping children in the household (17.5% engaging for an average of 2.12 hours), and travel for leisure and sports (39.3% engaging for an average of 0.8 hours) or for purchasing goods and services (42.4% engaging for an average of 0.72 hours).

On average, Americans spend 0.31 hours per day on the weekend engaged in religious and spiritual activities (1.3% of weekend time). Note again this includes those of all (or no) affiliations and time on both Saturday and Sunday. Overall, 15.5% of Americans report a religious or spiritual activity and of these people, an average of 1.98 hours per day is spent on these activities (8.3% of their weekend time). As shown below, there is very little change in the percentage of time spent on religious or spiritual activities over the last decade. Americans have not become any less religious or spiritual in the things that they do since data collection began in 2003 (…don’t expect to ever read that in a newspaper as it doesn’t fit into the current “narrative” but it is in the data for anyone to see).

These religious or spiritual activities include things like attending a variety of religious services, prayer, meditating, reading or studying religious or spiritual texts, religious education, conducting religious rites in the home, evangelizing, religious or spiritual food preparation, religious or spiritual singing, retreats, visiting graves, or cleaning up after religious services.

Americans spend more time, on average, doing religious or spiritual things on the weekend than lawn and garden care, volunteering, homework or research, caring for pets, home repair, or vehicle-related activities.

Only 6.4% of Americans report religious or spiritual activities on a weekday. Of those who do, an average of 1.17 hours is spent on this per day.

Perhaps the ATUS data can also reveal the biggest “competitor” for time facing religious and spiritual activities. As Robert Putnam identified in Bowling Alone (2000) the one technology that appears to be the most efficient for “consuming” more and more of our time continues to be television. There is likely more than enough space for religion and spirituality alongside shopping and exercising. Working, eating, sleeping, and grooming are all relatively inescapable. Yet, it is difficult to imagine that television ( much as I love it) is an “essential” for anyone.

It is true that one could watch religious and spiritual content on television. However, CARA’s multiple surveys on this topic reveal this is not a common activity by any means (1, 2). The channel is more often tuned elsewhere. More importantly the ATUS does not code viewing religious or spiritual content as “watching TV” and instead places that time under religious or spiritual activity.

Whether weekday or weekend, more than eight in ten Americans watches television. The average TV watcher consumes more than 24 hours of television per week! Before televisions invaded our living spaces that would have been a whole day every week that we would have spent doing something else (e.g., bowling in a league, visiting neighbors, going to PTA meetings, spending time at the lodge, playing with the kids outside). Over the last decade it has become so much easier to watch television. From cellphones to flat screens, on traditional networks or cable to streaming services—video content has never been so accessible. And the data reveal Americans continue to have a growing appetite for this content. In 2003, the average TV watcher (i.e., most Americans) consumed 23 hours per week. In 2013, the total had grown to 24.4 hours per week.

As television becomes easier to consume almost anywhere and anytime, many brick and mortar membership institutions (including Catholic parishes) are gradually losing their ability to compete for time and attention against video content (from two-minute clips to full-length films). Catholic parishes must be able to make the case that Mass is more important and more interesting than a Game of Thrones streaming marathon or an NFL game. One would think that the former should be evident to any self-identified Catholic. However, CARA’s national surveys show many Catholics do not think missing Mass is a sin or at least not a sin that will lead to negative consequences. Monthly attendance is becoming a norm among many Catholic sub-groups. Making the case for “more interesting” can be a bigger challenge. One avenue may be to join in and do more religion on television, Netflix, YouTube, etc. Get people interested in their faith with good video content and maybe they will be more inclined to create that weekend space for religion and spirituality in a parish.

Until then, when some Catholics (and those of other faiths) continue to tell survey researchers that they “just drifted away” from their faith to be “nothing” we may better understand where many really drift off to…

Images courtesy of Chris Smith and Chris Brown.


By the Numbers: Jesuit Demography

This post is an update of sorts to one of this blogs most visited pieces of research by CARAs Executive Director Thomas P. Gaunt, SJ, PhD. It provides the most recent view of what is happening in the Society of Jesus globally:

This year marked the 200th Anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus by Pope Pius VII in 1814.  The first 150 years of the restored Society saw a steady increase in the number of Jesuits across Europe and the Americas and the beginnings of an indigenous Jesuit population in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  The most recent 50 years show a reversal in the pattern of growth and expansion of Jesuits as India replaces the United States as the largest national group, and Asia and Africa experience steady growth compared to the declining numbers in Europe and North America.

The changing number of Jesuits is driven by three factors: the number of men entering the novitiate each year, the number of men departing the Jesuits each year, and the number of Jesuits that die each year.  A steady growth in the number of Jesuits is usually due to a consistently larger group entering year after year and a smaller group dying each year.  A steady decline is usually the reverse of these two factors.  Since the number of entrances or deaths can vary quite a bit year over year this study examines the data in 5 year blocks in order to smooth annual variances.

For administrative purposes the provinces of the Society of Jesus are organized under six geographic regions:
  • Africa – all of Africa and Madagascar except North Africa
  • Latin America – all of South America, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean
  • South Asia – India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka
  • East Asia – Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Myanmar
  • Europe – Europe, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Canada
  • United States – USA, Jamaica, Belize, and Micronesia

Overall Numbers
The graph below shows the total number of Jesuits at five year intervals (1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013) over the past 25 years.  Both Africa and South Asia show a steady increase in numbers, and East Asia has a small decline.  The Jesuits of Latin America have a steady decline in numbers, and the Jesuits of the United States and Europe have a much sharper decline.  Europe and the United States have about one-half the number of Jesuits as 25 years ago.

Entering Novices
Twenty-five years ago the largest number of entering novices were in Europe followed by South Asia and then Latin America.  The United States, Africa and East Asia each had smaller numbers entering.  Over the years the number entering declined in Europe, Latin America and the United States while the number entering in South Asia and East Asia fluctuated.  Only Africa saw a continuous increase in new novices.

The sharp decline in the number of entering novices, more than 50 percent, in Europe, Latin America, and the United States accounts for almost all of the decline in entrances.  The rest of the world is relatively stable or growing.  In 1988 Europe, Latin America and the United States had 59 percent of all the entering novices and by 2013 this had declined to 40 percent.  On the other hand, South Asia, East Asia and Africa went from 41 percent to 60 percent of the entering novices.  The clear majority of younger Jesuits are now coming from Asia and Africa.

Departures from the Jesuits
In a pattern that is typical for all religious institutes, a large number of the men who enter the Jesuit novitiate later leave, usually during the years of formation before ordination or final vows.  In general the pattern of departures follows the earlier pattern of entrances for each region of the Jesuits.  There is a sharp decline in the number of departures over 25 years in Europe and the United States, and more recently in Latin America.  There are fewer departures in East Asia and an increase in departures in Africa and South Asia.

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 region of Jesuits in five-year periods over the past 25 years.  South Asia and Africa have had large gains in members in each period of time.  East Asia has shown a smaller but increasing gain, and Europe a diminished but stabilizing gain.  Latin America and the United States have shown periods of a loss of members (more men departing than entering over a five-year period), although both are showing a net gain in recent years.

Number of Deaths
The vast majority of older Jesuits who entered prior to 1960 are in Europe and the United States, and there are fewer older Jesuits in Africa and South Asia.  The Jesuits in Europe and the United States have consistently accounted for about two-thirds of all the deaths over the past 25 years while their proportion of the overall Jesuit membership has gone from 60 percent to 44 percent.

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 membership in Europe and the United States, and to a lesser extent Latin America.  Only Africa and South Asia record any net gain in Jesuits year over year, and that gain is dwarfed by the losses of Europe and the United States.  While Africa and South Asia may have a net gain of 100 to 200 Jesuits over a five-year period, Europe and the United States have a net loss 1,200 to 1,300 Jesuits.

The greatest contrast in Jesuit demography among the regions of the world is the number of deaths.  The large number of elderly Jesuits in Europe and the United States dying each year is the dominant factor in the changing Jesuit demography.  Around 2000, the Jesuits of South Asia out-numbered the Jesuits of the United States and it is expected that South Asia may out-number Europe by 2015.

As Jesuits gather in 2016 for a General Congregation and to elect a new Superior General, the demographic center of the Jesuits will be in South Asia and the global South. 

Image courtesy of Ilho Song.


Catholicism at the Poles: Births and Baptisms, North and South

At CARA we sit on a mountain of data about the Catholic Church (…including a new and ever expanding database of international figures). I can always count on one set of numbers to leave me scratching my head—baptismal data (1, 2). In the previous post we examined how birth rates are falling globally. Fewer babies means fewer baptisms right? But there is an odd “swirl” in the numbers the closer one gets to the North Pole. Forget the Francis Effect. Is there a St. Nicholas Effect?

Northern Europe not only leads the continent in baptisms per 1,000 Catholics, it also matches the Catholic crude baptism rates in many high fertility countries in Africa (“crude” rates measure something relative to the size of a population, often “per 1,000”). In 2012, on average, there were 13.9 baptisms per 1,000 Catholics in Northern European countries. Finland, Iceland, and Denmark rank just ahead of Ireland, which is closely followed by Sweden and Great Britain (Vatican statistics combine Ireland and Northern Ireland). Only Norway doesn’t seem to “fit in.”

There are more baptisms per 1,000 Catholics in this region (based on data from the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae), on average, than there are births per 1,000 of the population (based on data from the World Bank). In many areas of the world (including the U.S.), Catholics are no more or less likely to have children than people of other faiths. However, Northern Europe appears to be one place where perhaps Catholic fertility rates, as reflected in the crude baptism rate, are slightly higher than the general population.

It is the case that there are just 11 million Catholics in this area of the world and most reside in Ireland and Great Britain (97 percent). Only about 165,000 Catholics live in Finland, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden combined. That is about enough to fill the seats in two football stadiums in the United States. There are mega-parishes in the United States with more registered parishioners than the total Catholic population of Finland or Iceland. But these Northern European outliers are real and consistent year after year (i.e., this phenomenon is not limited to the 2012 data). There truly is something different and exceptional about the practice and transmission of the faith in this area of the world.

This region has been a destination for immigrants from other areas of Europe in recent decades. Polish immigration in particular is of interest (1, 2, 3, 4). Is there something different about the fertility and baptism decisions of Catholic parents depending on the social context where they live? Particularly, if you are a Catholic immigrant in a majority Protestant region does it make you even “more Catholic” than you would be in a majority Catholic country or a country with religious pluralism? Does religion become an even more salient aspect of one’s identity and their sense of nostalgia for their place of birth?

Kosovo has crude Catholic baptismal rates similar to Northern Europe and is also a country where the faith is small relative to a large majority (Islam). A few other Eastern European countries have relatively high baptismal rates (10 per 1,000 Catholics or higher) including Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, and Croatia. In many other Eastern European countries the baptismal rate falls well behind birthrates—meaning that likely some Catholic parents are choosing to delay or not to baptize their children in the faith.

In Western Europe, where Catholicism has been historically strong, the baptismal numbers are perhaps most troubling for the Church. The average crude birth rate in this region is 10 per 1,000 of the population. Yet, the crude baptism rate is only 6 per 1,000 Catholics. Many of these countries have very low fertility rates and rely on immigration to maintain population stability (…some failing to do so). It could be the case that immigrants are driving crude birth rates higher than what these are among Catholics alone in the region. Yet the disparity between birth rates and baptism rates is still significant.

In all of the preceding tables we have shown the ratio of adult baptisms (ages 7 and older) to infant and child baptisms and the numbers of Catholics per parish. In Northern and Western Europe there is only about one adult baptism for every 25 infant or child baptisms and the number of Catholics per parish is typically about 2,500. This means no one is likely standing in line for a baptism and few who baptize children wait until after age six to do so. These indicators look much different in other parts of the world.

The table below shows the infant and child baptism data for African countries with relatively high crude baptism rates. Eight African countries have crude baptism rates higher than Finland. However, note that relative to the crude birth rates in these countries there are likely many Catholic parents with unbaptized children in these countries. In Uganda there are 44 births per 1,000 residents and only 28.5 infant or child baptisms per 1,000 Catholics. It is possible that Catholic fertility rates are lower than others in Uganda but this is unlikely. With 29,798 Catholics per parish in Uganda it could be that some parents are putting off baptism due to limited access to a parish and/or priest. It is the case that there are only four infant or child baptisms for every baptism of someone age 7 or older. So more baptisms are occurring later here than in Europe.

Only on the island of Mauritius does the Catholic crude baptism rate exceed the crude birth rate. In a handful of countries there is near parity between the number of infant and child baptisms and the number of adult baptisms celebrated (e.g., Rwanda, Mozambique, Ghana, Mali, Togo).

There are other African countries in this region where baptism rates look a bit more like Western or Eastern Europe. These are shown below. Notice the massive differences between the crude birth rates and the crude baptism rates. Either Catholics in these countries are disproportionately unlikely to have children or they are delaying or forgoing baptism altogether for their children. There is considerable evidence of delays with the average ratio of adult baptisms to child baptisms for the region reaching 1.9. For every baptism of someone under age 7 there are nearly two baptisms of someone age 7 or older. There are more baptisms of older Catholics than younger in the Central African Republic, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivorie, Chad, Guinea, and Liberia. Is this a case of waiting lines? Too few priests available? Parishes too far for regular travel? On average, there are 16,426 Catholics per parish in these countries. That means there are more Catholics per parish in these countries, on average, than in all of Finland (…where there are seven Catholic parishes).

The “swirls” in Catholic baptismal rates are not limited to the North Pole. As one moves further south we see again relatively high rates in Oceania. On average, in this region, there are 20 infant or child baptisms per 1,000 Catholics which is consistent with the region’s birth rate of 20.1 babies per 1,000 in the population. There are also relatively few baptisms of older Catholics and low numbers of Catholics per parish. These conditions, similar to Northern Europe, mean that there is unlikely issues of access to a parish or a priest that may delay baptism. In fact, the four countries with the highest crude baptismal rates in the world are in Oceania: Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, and the Solomon Islands (try that as a trivia question!). Similar to Scandinavia, there is not a large Catholic population here. In these four countries combined the total number of Catholics is just about 218,000.

If Catholics are following the teachings of the Church they should be baptizing their babies within a year of their birth. Unless you are a martyr seeking to be a Christian (and dying because of this before baptism) your salvation, according to the Church, is in question. The Catechism of the Catholic Church cautions, “as regards children who have died without baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God” (1261).

Throughout history, parents typically had their infants baptized quickly out of a concern that they faced very real risks of death. Between 20% and 30% of infants did not survive historically and in some periods and places this rate reached 50%. Still today, the Church allows a lay person to baptize someone wishing to be Catholic who is facing death or severe illness if no clergy are available. The Catechism states “In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize” (1256).

Around the world today there are about 20 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (2% mortality rate). There is a high of 31 infant deaths per 1,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to 6 infant deaths per 1,000 births in Europe. All things considered, the risk of an infant dying young is considerably lower today than in the past. But it is also the case that these risks are still higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than in Europe. We might expect that Catholics in Africa might be more motivated to baptize their infants than those in Europe. However, we must also consider the relative access to parishes and priests those two populations face. If the Church is to keep up with the population growth in Africa it will likely need to invest in more brick, mortar, and priest collars. In Western Europe it must attempt to reinstall the culture and habits of infant baptism.

Some of the exceptional baptism rate countries highlighted in this post are also relatively small. The table below shows the top ten countries for total infant or child baptisms. These are the countries supplying the world with the most new Catholics each year. In total, these nations accounted for 7.7 million of infant and child baptisms in 2012. This represents a majority of the world’s celebrations that year (56 percent). Notice that even where the numbers of infant/child entries is largest, only in Poland does the crude baptism rate at least match the crude birth rate.

So I will continue to scratch my head... Are Catholic parents in many areas of the world deciding not to baptize their infants? Are they delaying baptism? Letting the child choose their own faith at a later age? So many data points, so many anomalies. At least the latest news from the North Pole is good... Merry Christmas!

Image courtesy of Visit Finland.

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