ARIS 2008 Report: Part IIIC - Geography

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The vast array of geographic data available from ARIS shown in Table 12 demonstrates how the American 
religious map has been redrawn at the state, Census Division and regional levels between 1990 and 2008. 
In order to follow these changes over time it is necessary to return to an analysis based upon the five main 
religious blocs used in Tables 1 and 2. The pace and direction of change varies across these spatial units but 
the decrease in the share of the combined total Christian population occurred in every region of the country 
over the past two decades. 

The large bloc of Other Christians, i.e. non-Catholics, declined nationally from 60% in 1990 to just 51% of 
the adult population in 2008 yet in the West it declined faster from 54 percent to 42 percent. In California 
the proportion of Other Christians dropped from 49% in 1990 to just 35% in 2008. The absolute number 
of Other Christians --not just their share of the population--fell despite major population growth in the state 
during the 18-year period. 

Catholic numbers and percentages rose in many states in the South and West mainly due to immigration 
from Latin America. Catholics increased their share in California and Texas to about one-third of the adult 
population and in Florida to over one-fourth. In terms of numbers they gained about 8 million adherents in 
these three states in the past two decades. At the same time the proportion of Catholics was eroded in other 
parts of the country, mainly in the Northeast Region, where Catholic adherents fell from 43 percent to 36 
percent of the adult population. New England had a net loss of one million Catholics. Big losses in both 
the number of Catholic adherents and their proportion occurred also in Massachusetts, and in Rhode Island, 
the nation's most heavily Catholic state where the proportion of Catholics dropped from 62 percent to 46 
percent. New York state lost 800,000 Catholics and they dropped from 44% to 37% of the adult population.

The most significant influence on American religious geography over time has been the increase in the Nones, 
or No Religion bloc. As noted earlier, nationally the Nones more than doubled in numbers from 1990 to 
2008 and almost doubled their share of the adult population, from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. Moreover, 
the Nones increased in numbers and proportion in every state, Census Division and Region of the country 
from 1990 to 2008. No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state. 

Nones have historically been concentrated in the West region and particularly in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. 
Oregon and Washington), where now they account for about one-quarter of the population. However, 
this pattern has now changed and the Northeast emerged in 2008 as the new stronghold of the religiously 
unidentified. In 2008 Vermont reached 34% Nones, New Hampshire 29%, and Maine and Massachusetts 
both 22%. A surge in the proportion of Nones also occurred in the Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, 
Nevada and Wyoming (28 percent) in 2008.

An intriguing research question we intend to explore further is the relationship between the two phenomena, 
the relative decline of the combined Christian population and the increase in Nones. There appear to be 
regional differences at play. The data presented in this report show that changing patterns of religious self-
identification by gender, age, race, and region can help to explain this important and recent phenomenon. An 
in-depth investigation of religious switching will shed further light on the doubling of the Nones during this 

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ARIS 2008