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.


Mexican Ancestry More Common Than Any Other among U.S. Catholics Under 65

In a September CARA Catholic Poll (CCP) we asked a national random sample of working-age self-identified Catholics (ages 16 to 64) "What is your ancestry or ethnic origin?" as an open-ended question (i.e., Census method). We identified more than 80 specific code-able ancestries from the 1,365 respondents (margin of sampling error ±2.7 percentage points). The most common response was Mexican (19.0%) followed by Irish (16.6%), German (15.7%), Italian (12.5%), and Polish (7.6%). The figure below compares this Catholic sample to the overall U.S. population.

In 2010, we posted a time-series analysis of ancestry for U.S. Catholics using the General Social Survey (GSS) entitled "On What Wave Did Your Ancestors Ride?" In the larger, more recent, and younger sample noted above, Mexican ancestry is now clearly even more common among U.S. adult Catholics under 65. This is not unexpected given recent immigration patterns and greater racial and ethnic diversity among Catholic Millennials (born 1982 or later). By comparison, in the 1970s, 18% of U.S. adult Catholics self-identified their ancestry as Italian ( ranking 4th, with more Italian-Americans no longer self-identifing as Catholic) followed by 16% Irish, 13% German, 9% Polish, and 7% Mexican.

Overall, 26% of all respondents indicated ancestry with one or more Latin American countries. Yet, some 37% of respondents self-identifies their race or ethnicity as Hispanic or Latino. About one in four Hispanic or Latino Catholics did not indicate ancestry to any specific Latin American country (27%). Fifty-two percent of Hispanic or Latino Catholics say they are of Mexican ancestry.

More than a quarter of non-Hispanic white Catholics surveyed say they are of Irish ancestry (27%). Three percent of black or African American Catholics indicate Irish ancestry as do 2% of Hispanic or Latino Catholics. Yet, as shown in the figure below, self-identification with a European ancestry is more broadly falling across Catholic generations. Feeling a personal connection to waves of Catholic immigration from Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries appears to be fading a bit into the history books (...note this is most likely occurring through generational replacement rather than anyone changing their ancestral self-identities).

On average, respondents identified with 1.2 ancestry groups. This does not vary across generations. Thus, younger Catholics are not losing a sense of ancestry or ethnic origin in general. Across all generations, fewer than one in five don't have any ancestral identities. Majorities note just one ancestry group. More than a quarter of Millennials (26%) note two or more ancestry groups.

In other recent research, CARA has identified 946 Catholic parishes in the United States (5.4%) who indicate that they currently serve a specific European-origin community including 248 Polish parishes, 236 German parishes, 199 Italian parishes, and 108 Irish parishes. By comparison there are 4,544 parishes (26.1%) who indicate that they serve Hispanic, Latino, and/or Spanish speaking communities. For more information about this topic and other related data see our recently released study, "Cultural Diversity in the Catholic Church in the United States."

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