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.


The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future

[This post has been updated to reflect data for 2010]

Was your church full on Christmas? Catholics are more likely to attend Mass on Christmas/Christmas Eve than any other day of the year (followed closely by Ash Wednesday and Easter) and there is evidence that this past Thursday/Friday may have had attendance rates higher than Christmases in recent years. 

Google searches for “Mass times” were nearly three times higher (2.86x) last week than in the average week from 2004 to 2009 and these exceeded the search volumes of other recent Christmas weeks (for more information see: Searching for Mass online…).

Mass at Christmas, more than any other time of year, provides a glimpse of what the Catholic Church might look like on a weekly basis if the decline in Mass attendance from the late-1950s peak had never occurred.

In 1957-58, Gallup surveys estimate that 74% of adult Catholics attended Church in an average week.  By comparison, today, CARA estimates that 31% of adult Catholics attend Mass in any given week (for more information see: The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance). However, CARA surveys also indicate that 68% of adult Catholics attend Mass at least “a few times a year”—most likely representing Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and/or Easter.

CARA estimates that about 22.1 million Catholics (adults and children) attend Mass at least once a week other than on these holidays or other days of obligation (for more information see: Searching for Mass online…).  Yet when 68% of Catholics attend Mass on a given weekend in 2009, parishes need to make room for about 47.9 million attendees. This begs the question, “Is there room at the inn?”

Given recent changes in numbers of parishes and normal variations in the number of Masses offered, the current weekend seating capacity of the Catholic Church in the United States (the aggregated number of seats x number of Masses per parish) is difficult to know. However, this can be estimated using data from CARA’s National Parish Inventory (NPI) a database of parish life in the United States. The NPI includes information about the seating capacity and number of Masses in more than 7 in 10 U.S. parishes (seating capacity for 71% of parishes and number of Masses for 78% of parishes). To make the estimates described below we have imputed missing data at the parish-level with regional averages (Census-9) for seats and number of Masses. Further, we have adjusted the overall total capacity down to account for the number of parish closings and mergers that have occurred in recent years (a reduction of 5.9%) since much of the NPI data were collected.

Using these methods we estimate that the building seating capacity of Catholic parishes in the United States include spots for about 8.8 million people and there are about 63,800 Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses in an average week (… in October, a period outside of the summer vacation season and within Ordinary Time for the Church).  Using the NPI data, we can thus estimate that the total weekend seating capacity for the Catholic Church is currently about 33.4 million.  In other words, on an average weekend, 66.3% of seats are filled (by an estimated 22.1 million attendees).  On such a weekend the average number of Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses per parish is 3.6 with an average church seating capacity of 492.

If 68% of Catholics attend Mass in a given weekend, such as at Christmas, more often than not parishes must increase the number of Masses scheduled to deal with the estimated 47.9 million attendees nationally. On an average weekend, there is one Mass for every 347 Mass attending Catholics.  To maintain this same ratio at the higher attendance level of 68%, the number of weekend Masses offered needs to more than double to about 138,000.

Currently the Catholic Church, on most weekends, is more than able to meet Mass attendance demands.  However, this excess capacity in Ordinary Time may only be momentary. The long decline in Mass attendance rates have halted and CARA has not identified any further declines since we began polling adult Catholics nationally in 2000 (for more information see: The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance).  As the Catholic population grows—even at a Mass attendance rate of 31%—the physical capacity of the Catholic Church (e.g., number of parishes, seats, and Masses) will also need to grow.  This will undoubtedly buck the recent trends towards parish closures and mergers and create even more pressure on priests in the United States who are also declining in number. After all there are only so many priests and so many hours in a day and thus there are real limits to simply increasing the number of Masses offered (and meet parishioner preferences for attending Mass at specific times).

Imagine this scenario 25 years in the future: A) the Catholic population grows 25% (as it has since 1985—also note that this implies relative stability with Catholics continuing to be about 23% or 24% of the total U.S. population), B) Mass attendance rates remain at the plateau of 31% (as they have for nearly a decade), C) that the typical number of Masses and number of seats per parish remains unchanged, and D) that the number of parishes declines at a 6.2% per decade rate (as it did from 2000 to 2009).

If this were to occur, the number of Mass attending Catholics per parish would increase from 1,233 today to 1,866 in 2035 while the total weekend seating capacity will drop to 27.6 million. The number of seats filled at Masses in an average week would essentially rise to capacity in 2035. Yet with higher Mass attendance rates during Advent and Lent the scenario above predicts a real seating crisis.  The Church would likely need to allocate tickets for Christmas Masses in 2035 (on a Tuesday by the way) to manage demand as there literally will not be enough “room at the inn.”


Google Searches Show Kansas and Nebraska are at the Top of Attendance Ranks

A second and unrelated source is consistent with the state-level Mass attendance estimates made in "Midwest Mass Attenders Outpace Rest of the Nation."

As it was noted in "Searching for Mass Online" one can use Google Trends to view how frequently Google users are searching for particular terms. This post had noted the trends in searches for "Mass times" closely mirror what one would expect from the Church calendar.

Google Trends can also zero in on where searches are coming from. See the screen shot below:

Searches for "Mass times" are more likely to come from people in Kansas and Nebraska than people in any other U.S. state. At the city-level Omaha and Kansas City, KS rank first and second. The top ten states are all ranked above average in CARA's estimates of Mass attendance.


Midwest Mass Attenders Outpace Rest of the Nation

In which states are Catholics most likely to attend Mass weekly? How many Catholics attend Mass in any given week in your state?

These questions are rarely easy to answer. Although dioceses do October head counts these are generally not made public nor are they necessarily reflective of Mass attendance in general.  Surveys rarely can provide an answer because these are typically limited to national estimates and there are too few respondents in any given state or region to make an accurate estimate.

Just recently it became possible to estimate answers to these questions with the public release of the data for the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (conducted in 2007). This survey includes interviews with more than 8,000 Catholics (a national survey with 1,000 respondents typically includes interviews with only about 230 Catholics. CARA Catholic Polls (CCP) typically include 1,000 Catholics).

The major limitation of using the Pew study to look at Mass attendance is that it was conducted by telephone where people are more likely to “overreport” how often they go to church (i.e. say they go more frequently than they actually do) to an interviewer. Comparing results of telephone polls and self-administered Knowledge Networks' surveys, CARA has found that Catholics are more honest in reporting their Mass attendance (as well as frequency of going to confession and financial giving) when no human interviewer is involved (for more see: “The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance”).   

The analysis below utilizes Pew’s data and CARA’s results for a national survey of Catholics in 2008 where telephone methods were not used (Knowledge Networks' panel and survey methods were used instead). The analysis below uses the Pew estimates that have been adjusted using the CARA estimates to control for the overreporting of Mass attendance in the Pew survey.

The Pew survey estimates that 41.4% of Catholics attend Mass weekly. This estimate is generally considered too high in comparison to Mass attendance headcounts, academic time diary research, and CARA’s series of Knowledge Networks' polls (where no interviewer is needed).

By comparison, CARA Catholic Polls (CCP) conducted with Knowledge Networks estimate that 23.3% of Catholics attend Mass weekly (an estimate consistent with headcounts and academic time diary research). Thus, CARA’s Mass attendance estimate is 56% the size of Pew’s. If we assume that the level of overreporting by respondents in the Pew survey is consistent across regions and states we can adjust for it by statistically weighting these estimates down using the CARA Mass attendance estimates.

The tables and figure below include our best estimates for the percentage of Catholics attending weekly (i.e., going at least once a week, every week) and the percentage of Catholics attending Mass in any given week (excluding Ash Wednesday, Christmas, Easter, etc. where attendance is known to be significantly higher) using these data.

Mass attendance is estimated to be highest in Midwestern states where 26% of adult Catholics attend Mass every week and 35% of adult Catholics are at Mass in any given week (as some infrequent attenders are at Mass in any given week; for more see: “The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance”). Mass attendance is estimated to be lowest in the West (21% weekly and 29% in any given week).

In the tables below each state is either listed in normal font, italicized or bold. States in bold have a sufficient number of interviews in the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey to where the state level estimate can be considered reliable. Whereas those in italics are based on too few interviews and may not be representative. All other states in normal font are somewhere in between these two levels of precision.

Using CARA’s state Catholic population estimates (see: Measuring Up: Aggregating data to estimate the number of Catholics at the state level) and the number of parishes in the state in 2007 (when the survey was conducted) we also provide an estimate of the number of Catholics (adults and children) attending per parish in any given week.  

Although imperfect and subject to large margins of error these estimates are the best available. A comparison of these to actual headcounts would provide a better estimate (it is also likely that the Pew adjusted data still overestimate Mass attendance as well as not all social desirability pressure is removed in CARA’s self-administered surveys—some are still likely to overreport their Mass attendance using any possible survey method).
Among the states with the most reliable estimates Pennsylvania has weekly Mass attendance estimates that are above the national average. At the other extreme, Florida Catholics have weekly Mass attendance estimates that are below the national average.

Even though California and Nevada have below average Mass attendance percentages each of these states has a large number of attenders per parish because of the relatively small number of parishes in those states compared to the number of Catholics residing there.


You are cordially invited… Young Adult Catholics and Marriage

With the recent approval of the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter on Marriage, “Marriage:  Life and Love in the Divine Plan,” attention is again being shifted to the current state of affairs in Catholic marriage.  The document calls for, among other things, marriage ministry that “accompanies and assists people at all stages of their journey: from the early years when young people begin to learn about committed relationships to the later years of married life, and even beyond them to grieving the loss of a spouse.”  But, what is the current young adult Catholic’s knowledge and attitude about marriage?

In spring of 2007, CARA conducted a poll for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to learn more about Catholics’:
  • General familiarity and specific knowledge about Catholic teaching on marriage
  • Consistency of respondents’ own views with various statements about marriage
  • View of the acceptability of divorce, both generally and in specific circumstances
  • General attitudes about marriage and divorce and influences on these attitudes
Using this poll, differences of attitudes and behaviors about marriage can be seen by respondents’ generation.  Interestingly, even though these generations are still coming of age, there significant differences between the Post-Vatican II Generation (born between 1961 and 1981, and more commonly called ‘Generation X’) and the Millennial Generation (born after 1981).

The youngest generation is more likely than their Post-Vatican II counterparts to say that marriage as a lifelong commitment and marriage as a calling from God are “very consistent” with their views.  Also – while 21% (1 in five) Post-Vatican II agree “somewhat or strongly” that “marriage is not necessary if a couple decides to have children,” only 12% (one in ten) Millennials agree “somewhat or strongly.”    

Interestingly, Millennials are more likely to say that marriage is “whatever two people want it to be” – 69% of Millennials “somewhat” or “strongly” agree, while 53% of Post Vatican-II “somewhat” or “strongly” agree.  These data suggest that Millennials understand marriage differently than the Post-Vatican II Generation.

The Post-Vatican II Generation and Millennial Generation even report looking for different attributes in a spouse.  Millennials are more likely than Post-Vatican II respondents to want a spouse as a soul-mate, to report being “very likely” to get married at some point, and to want to be married in the Catholic Church.  But – Millennials and Post-Vatican II are about as likely to say that it is “somewhat” or “very” important that their spouse be Catholic.  While 30% of single, never married Post-Vatican II respondents say it is “somewhat” or “very” important for their spouse to be Catholic, 31% of Millennials responded the same way.

But, what about divorce?  In their pastoral letter, the Bishops of the United States are particularly concerned about the divorce rate, saying, “…the incidence of divorce remains high. The social sanctions and legal barriers to ending one‘s marriage have all but disappeared, and the negative effects of divorce on children, families, and the community have become more apparent in recent decades.”  Millennial respondents are more likely than Post-Vatican II respondents to agree “somewhat” or “strongly” that couples don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is easily available.  They are only slightly more likely to agree that divorce because of financial trouble and because of falling out of love is not acceptable.

These differences may be a result of the spike in divorces during the Post-Vatican II Generation’s formative years.  When currently single, never married respondents who say that they are unlikely to be married are asked why, almost one in five Post-Vatican II respondents (19%) say it is because they witnessed a parent, other family member, or close friend in a troubled marriage and it has made them hesitant to marry (compared to less than one in ten Millennials, 7%).

It should be noted, however, that two in five Millennial respondents (43%) “somewhat” or “very much” believe that living with a partner before marriage decreases the risk of divorce (compared to 31% of Post-Vatican II).  On the subject of cohabitation, the Bishops find state that “Clearly, there is no substitute for the binding lifelong commitment of marriage, and by definition, there is certainly no way to ‘try it out.’”  They go on to argue that “at the heart of cohabitation lies a reluctance or refusal to make a public, permanent commitment. Young people need to develop the virtue required for sustaining such a lofty commitment.”

--By, Melissa A. Cidade, Director of CARA's Pastoral Assistance Surveys and Services (PASS)


Global Catholicism: Aggregating data to estimate the number of Catholics at the national level on a global scale

In a previous post, Catholic population data reported in the OCD were compared to survey-based estimates at the state-level. This is replicated here at the national-level for 70 countries where survey data are available. Survey estimates are compared to the Catholic Church’s official population reports in the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (ASE) 2005.

The surveys provide estimates of the percentage of adult respondents in two large international surveys who self-identify themselves as Catholic (see the previous post regarding the use of adult surveys to estimate total population). These surveys include the most recently released wave of the World Values Survey (WVS) for 2005 to 2008, the most recent wave of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) for 2002 to 2006 and the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) for 2004 to 2006.

The survey-based estimates are then applied to total mid-year population estimates for each country in 2005 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Data base (IDB). In cases where there are estimates from all three surveys an average of these are used. Although imperfect, these methods are the best available for providing global comparisons.

Overall, these surveys estimate that there were 769.4 million Catholics residing in the 70 countries in 2005 for which data are available.  In these same 70 countries, the Catholic Church had estimated that there were 883.7 million Catholics (79 percent of the Church’s estimate of all Catholics globally). Thus, the Church’s estimated population for these countries is 15% higher than the aggregated survey estimate.

However, as shown in the tables above, the surveys estimate 0.0% Catholic self-identity in some of the countries where Catholics are known to reside in significant numbers (e.g., there are Catholic parishes and parishioners). These include Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Thailand, and Turkey. The Church reports that a total of 25.3 million Catholics reside in these countries—mostly in India (18.1 million) and Indonesia (6.5 million). Catholics are estimated to make up less than 3% of the population in both of these very large population countries. If one removes these 25.3 million from the Catholic Church’s Catholic population total to reflect the survey estimates the Church’s total Catholic population is 11.6% higher than the survey population estimate (858.4 million compared to 769.4 million).

Based on the survey estimates, the Catholic Church is over-estimating Catholic population in Europe and the Americas to a similar degree (15% in Europe and 16% in the Americas).  The Church is likely under-estimating the Catholic population of Africa and the Middle East combined (-29%). In Brazil, the largest Catholic population country in the world (regardless of the estimation method), the surveys indicate the Church is over-estimating the number of Catholics residing there by 29 million.


Measuring Up: Aggregating data to estimate the number of Catholics at the state level

How many Catholics live in your state?

A recent CARA analysis of data from multiple sources indicates that in most states there may be more Catholics than the Catholic Church is aware of. 

Each year in The Official Catholic Directory (OCD), dioceses report a variety of statistics—including their estimates of the total Catholic population.  The 2009 OCD is intended to be representative of the “status of the Catholic Church as of January 1, 2009.” At CARA, we interpret these data to be reflective of totals in 2008, when these data are collected.

Recently some very large surveys regarding religious identification have been conducted which allow for population estimates at the state level. The first of these was conducted in 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey included interviews with a representative sample of 35,556 adults in the United States. The second source used here is American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted by researchers at Trinity College in 2008.  This survey included interviews with a representative sample of 54,461 adults in the United States.  Surveys with such large sample sizes allow for state level estimates of religious identification that are not possible with a typical academic or media poll that may only interview 1,000 respondents nationally.

Both of these large surveys estimate the proportion of the adult population (age 18 and older) that self-identifies their religion as Catholic.  These surveys likely underestimate the Catholic percentage of the total population—including children—as Catholics in the United States are, on average, younger than the non-Catholics (and more likely to be of childbearing age) and Catholics have a higher fertility rate than non-Catholics (both of these demographic factors are related to immigration).  Thus, the percentage of the population under age 18 in the United States that is Catholic is likely greater than the percentage of the U.S. adult population that is Catholic. 

In addition to these surveys, estimates are available from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB).  This organization produces county-level estimates for religious adherents of all ages that coincide with each U.S. Census. Adherents represent any members of the faith, regardless of attendance at services, confirmation, etc.  The most recent estimates from ASARB represent the year 2000. Due to the timing of this data collection, the ASARB estimates, in some cases, misrepresent Catholic population percentages due to changes that have occurred in the last nine years—primarily any significant Catholic mobility (moving from one state to another) and any significant Catholic immigration (Catholics coming to the United States from other countries).

Despite the methodological and timing differences between these four estimates of the Catholic population percentage (i.e. including the OCD), each is strongly correlated to all others at the state level (Pearson’s R >= .915).  

CARA has aggregated these Catholic population estimates by simply averaging them (Note: not all states have estimates from all four sources). This is represented as "Average" in the tables below. We use this average to estimate the total size of the Catholic population in each state based on U.S. Census Bureau estimates of state population size in 2008. This is represented by "Catholic Population Estimate" in the tables below (i.e., multiplying the "Average" by the "Total Population" and creating the estimates in the "Catholic Population Estimate" column. Note: the "Average" includes additional decimal places not shown in the table. Thus, multiplying the table figures for "Total Population" by "Average" will produce slightly different estimates of "Catholic Population Estimate" than what is shown in the table. The complete data are available upon request). 

Using this method, the total estimated size of the self-identified Catholic population (i.e., adults and children) in the United States in 2008 was approximately 70.5 million (by comparison the OCD estimated this to be 65.2 million for the 50 states and Washington D.C.).  This represents 23.3% of the total U.S. population of 303.2 million in that year.

The table below includes states where the Catholic population percentage estimated from the OCD is relatively consistent with estimates made from the surveys and ASARB. 

The next table includes states where the Catholic population percentage estimated from the OCD is either significantly underestimated or overestimated in comparison to the estimates made from the surveys and ASARB.  This table also includes those states where no OCD estimate is available due to diocesan boundaries (e.g., Arizona and New Mexico, Delaware and Maryland).

The outlier states where dioceses have likely underestimated the size of their Catholic population are: Mississippi, Florida, Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee.  In each of these states the size of the Catholic population is estimated to be more than 50% larger than what is reported in the OCD based on the most recent survey estimates. Florida in particular is estimated to have more than 1.4 million more Catholics than what is reported in the OCD (2,255,891 reported in the OCD compared to CARA's estimate of 3,729,817).

The only dramatic outlier state where dioceses have likely overestimated the size of their Catholic population is Nevada where the estimated size of the Catholic population is 25% smaller than what is reported in the OCD based on the most recent survey estimates.

Even the aggregated estimates shown above, for a variety of reasons, likely underestimate the Catholic population in general. As noted, ASARB is based on data collected in 2000 and the figures reported by dioceses in the OCD are often conservative and most consistent with ASARB estimates. The surveys by Pew and ARIS include only adults. Finally, one of the most difficult populations to survey and count in the United States are immigrants. Many recent immigrants to the United States have come from countries in Latin America and Asia that have large Catholic populations. Immigrants in general are known to be less likely to agree to be interviewed in surveys and may also be under-sampled due to the lack of a landline phone (i.e., mobile phone-only households). Researchers using Census Bureau surveys often make adjustments for this "undercount" (see Pew's, A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States). To the degree that Catholic immigrants are missed in surveys, the Catholic population percentages estimated using these data are by definition underestimated.


The Nuances of Accurately Measuring Mass Attendance

How many Catholics are at Mass on a weekly basis? This percentage varies depending on if one is interested in those who attend every week and those who are at Mass on any given weekend.  There are also important differences in how one conducts the poll that generates these numbers.

CARA has conducted 19 CARA Catholic Polls (CCP), national surveys of adult self-identified Catholics, since 2000. Some of these have been by telephone and others have been conducted online using Knowledge Networks national panel. There are important and interesting differences between the results of Mass attendance questions from CARA’s online self-administered polls and CARA's telephone polls that are strongly related to the effects of the presence of an interviewer.

These differences are not limited to Mass attendance and generally are observable for any socially desirable activity from financial giving and frequency of prayer and confession. CARA’s self-administered surveys consistently show lower levels of Mass attendance than what is exhibited typically in CARA’s telephone polls.  Survey researchers have long understood that the personal interaction between interviewer and respondent can create over-reports of certain activities (such as voting or giving to charity) that are considered socially desirable.  Responses to questions regarding attendance at religious services are known to be biased toward estimates higher than actual attendance as measured by head counts.   Below we show varying estimates of Catholic weekly attendance using telephone polls and other methods such as head counts and time diaries.

CARA's self-administered surveys use methods that do not require a human interviewer--respondents are answering questions as they appear on-screen (either through a computer or on their television using MSN TV).  Self-administered surveys, such as this, are known to reduce over-reports for questions that have socially desirable response sets (encompassing attitudes people believe they “should” have or behaviors they feel they “should” do), producing results that more closely reflect actual behavior than estimates derived from telephone polls.  

The estimated percentage of Catholics attending Mass every week using the responses to CARA's self-administered surveys are more consistent with what is found in estimates of the attendance of Catholics derived from other methods, such as sample-based head counts and time diary studies.  As the figure below shows, results from 12 CARA telephone surveys and seven CARA-Knowledge networks surveys (using self-administered methods), produce no statistically significant changes in weekly Mass attendance between 2000 and 2008 by either method of polling.  All variations are within the sampling margin of error.  The difference between the two methods of polling is consistently about 8 to 14 percentage points for those who say they attend weekly or more often.  On average, in CARA's self-administered surveys 22% to 23% percent of adult self-identified Catholics say they attend Mass on a weekly basis (i.e. every week).
Some other surveys, such as those conducted by Gallup, ask about religious service attendance in any given week (e.g., the last seven days).  In the table below, we convert the responses from the CARA question and estimate the percentage of Catholics that attend Mass in any given week rather than every week.  This is estimated to be 31.4%.
By chance one might expect about 2% of those who say they “rarely or never” attend Mass to have attended Mass in any given seven-day period (odds of 1 in 52).  If one takes the 32% of Catholics responding in this manner and multiplies it by 2%, one can estimate that 0.6% of Catholic Mass attendance in any given week is made up of those who say they "rarely or never" attend Mass.  This same calculation can be done for each category of responses that indicate less than weekly attendance. 

Gallup estimates that 45% of Catholics attend Mass in any given week. CARA estimates this to be about 13 percentage points lower.  This is consistent with expectations as Gallup polls use an interviewer over the phone and are thus influenced by social desirability bias.

Note: Knowledge Networks panel has been shown to be representative to well within 1 percentage point to the U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS) demographics for gender, age, race and ethnicity, education, and region.  See: Baker et al. (2003), “Validity of the Survey of Health and Internet and Knowledge Networks Panel and Sampling,” Stanford University and Krosnick and Chiat Chang (2001), “A Comparison of Random Digit Dialing Telephone Survey Methodology with Internet Survey Methodology as Implemented by Knowledge Networks and Harris Interactive,” Ohio State University. The panel is updated on a quarterly basis and those persons who are sampled and asked to join the Knowledge Networks panel receive subsidized Internet access and other incentives.  For those who do not own computers, Knowledge Networks provides a television-based Internet system (MSN TV) for free.  These steps ensure that the Knowledge Networks panel is as reflective as possible of the national population and that it is not biased towards those who have pre-existing access to the Internet.

For references or more information on this topic see: 
Mark Chaves and James C. Cavendish. 1994. "More Evidence on U.S. Catholic Church Attendance." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 33: pp. 376-381.
Stanley Presser and Linda Stinson. 1998. "Data Collection Mode and Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Attendance." American Sociological Review. 63: pp. 137-145.
C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler. 2005. "How Many Americans Attend Worship Each Week? An Alternative Approach to Measurement." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 44: pp. 307-322.  


Searching for Mass online…

If you needed to find a Catholic Mass what would you do? If you said “I’d Google it.” You may be like many other Catholics in the United States—at least on some days.

Google dominates the search engine wars, garnering nearly two out of every three searches done on the Internet in the United States.  Google Trends (example) provides a window into the search behavior of its users.

So when are Catholics looking for “Mass times”? (...not to be confused with, which can help you find a Mass if you have the URL bookmarked or memorized)

The search volume for Mass times on Google is always highest the week of Christmas.  On average, users are more than twice as likely to be searching for this during that week compared to the average week. If you guessed Easter Week as the next busiest week for this search you would be wrong. Instead it is the week of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

Holy Days of Obligation that could possibly be abrogated when falling on a Saturday or Monday get more search traffic for Mass times when these fall on other days of the week.  However, the Feast of the Assumption is the only Holy Day of Obligation which draws significantly more search traffic for Mass times than in the average week.

During the January 2004 to September 2009 period, no week matched the week that began on December 21, 2008 for the volume of searches for Mass times (2.4 times as many searches than in the average week).  The lowest traffic week during this period was the week beginning on May 6, 2007 (0.6 times as many searches than in the average week).  Of the top ten weeks for searches of Mass times all are in weeks for Christmas or Ash Wednesday with the exception of Easter Week in 2004.

Most young adult Catholics still the marrying type

A recent CARA survey reveals that 86% of young adult Catholics, age 18 to 35, are either married (39%) or say it is at least “somewhat” likely that they will marry in the future (47%).

Only one in ten young adult Catholics have never been married and believe it is only “a little” likely that they will in the future.  Some 4% say that this is “not at all likely.”  Two percent of young adult Catholics have married but are either separated or divorced.

Among young adult Catholics who have never married but who say it is at least “a little” likely that they will marry in the future, the most common reason noted for having yet to marry is “I haven’t met the right person” (59%) followed by “I am focused on other aspects of my life” (57%).  Forty-three percent also say “I am not personally ready to marry.”

Few, less than one in five each, cited their own independence (17%), a lack of willingness to marry from a partner (14%), or negative experiences in relationships (12%), or the negative experiences of relatives or peers who have been married a reason for not having yet married themselves.

Two-thirds of married young adult Catholics (66%) have a Catholic spouse.  By comparison, 73% of married Catholics older than 35 are married to a Catholic. 

Among never-married young adult Catholics, only 27% say it is “somewhat” or “very” important to them that a future spouse be Catholic.  Twenty-six percent say this is only “a little important” and 48% indicate it is “not at all” important to them that their future spouse be Catholic if they were to marry.  This does not mean they are actively seeking a non-Catholic spouse and in fact many who do marry will likely wed a Catholic spouse due to social proximity.

At the same time, many never-married young adult Catholics do say it is important for them to be married in the Catholic Church.  Nearly half (48%) say this is “somewhat” or “very” important to them and 24 percent indicate this is “a little” important to them. 

Sixty-four percent of married young adult Catholics were either married in the Church (60%) or have had their marriage blessed by the Church (4%). By comparison, 71% of married Catholics older than 35 were married in the Church (66%) or have had their marriage blessed (5%). 

Young adult Catholics are slightly more likely than older Catholics say they at least “somewhat” believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment (91% compared to 85%).  However, they are less likely to believe similarly that marriage as a calling from God (51% compared to 56%) or as a vocation (50% compared to 55%).

Young adult Catholics have very similar opinions to those of older Catholics regarding the acceptability of divorce.  Seventy-six percent of both groups agree with Church teachings that divorce is acceptable in some cases (e.g., the Church does not require one to stay in an abusive relationship).

When asked about specific circumstances, young adult Catholics were slightly more likely than older Catholics to believe divorce is acceptable for all of the situations listed. 

Young adult Catholics are more likely than older Catholics to agree that when they marry they want their spouse to be their soulmate first and foremost (84% compared to 75%) and that couples don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is easily available (76% compared to 69%).

Young adult Catholics are significantly more likely than older Catholics to agree that living with a partner before marriage decreases the risk of divorce (41% compared to 22%).  Eight percent of surveyed young adult Catholics indicated that they are unmarried and currently living with a partner, compared to 4% of older Catholics.

Catholics under the age of 36 are just as likely as those who are older to agree “somewhat” or “very much” that:
  • Marriage is an outdated institution (11% compared to 9%)
  • Personal freedom is more important than the companionship of marriage (both 12%)
  • Marriage is not necessary if a couple decides to have children (both 16%)
  • Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems (both 29%)
  • Watching children grow is life’s greatest joy (both 78%)
A full report of the results of the survey is available at:

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