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.


Changes in Number of Parishes... and Congressional Seats?

At CARA we are often called by reporters working on stories about parish closures. Almost always the reporter is looking for a quote or statistic that can confirm their assumption that the closure of a parish is a new sign of an imploding Catholic Church (it's a common narrative!).

We typically have to caution the reporter on jumping to conclusions based on a single anecdote and then ask a few questions ourselves. Is this parish in an urban area? Is it located in the Northeast or Midwest? Is there a priest shortage in the diocese? All these factors are more likely to be the root of the closure rather than the generalized impending doom in many reporters' heads. I've commented on why this narrative is so misleading elsewhere.

Here is a new correlation to ponder. Today the U.S. Census Bureau released results that will affect the apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. The big winners? The South and West and especially Texas (picking up 4 seats). The losers? The Northeast and Midwest which have both become smaller population regions.

Here is a nice summary and map of these changes from the Boston Globe

Compare the map linked above to the one below that represents changes at the state-level in the number of Catholic parishes from CARA researcher Mary Gautier:

Why is there such a strong resemblance? Do parish closures cause losses of House seats? Of course not. That would confuse correlation with causation. However, both have common roots: population shifts and changes. The biggest gainer in both parishes and House seats? Texas. On the other hand the greatest losses are seen in New York.

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