Portraits of American Life Study
Hosted by The ARDA
The PALS seeks to understand the impact of religion in everyday life, and ultimately the connections between religious change and other forms of change among diverse individuals and families over the course of their lives.

Religion and Race

Ethnicity and race are at the heart of American experience, and both are deeply rooted in the nature of religious communities, religious faith, and religious practice in the United States. As shown by the tables below, there is much variation between religious and racial groups. Some races are concentrated in a few religious traditions; some religions are concentrated in a few races. The tables below present percentages of total population. Some categories provide subgroup percentages.

When studying individual congregations, the racial composition is much more homogeneous. Using the definition of a multiracial congregation, as one in which no one racial group comprises 80% or more of the people (Emerson, 2006), nine out of every ten congregations in the United States is racially homogeneous, based on data from the National Congregation Survey, 1998. More on multiracial congregations.

Race by Religious Traditions

 
White
Evangelical Prot33%
Catholic22%
Mainline Protestant18%
Unaffiliated16%
 • Spiritual 10%
 • Agnostic 3%
 • Atheist 1%
 • Other 3%
Other Affiliated4%
Protestant – Other4%
Jewish2%
Black Protestant<1%
 
African Americans
Black Protestant48%
Unaffiliated18%
 • Spiritual 13%
 • Other 4%
 • Agnostic 1%
 • Atheist <1%
Evangelical Prot.15%
Catholic6%
Protestant – Other5%
Other Affiliated4%
Mainline Protestant3%
Jewish1%

 
Hispanic
Catholic71%
Evangelical Prot.11%
Unaffiliated11%
 • Spiritual 7%
 • Other 4%
Other Affiliated3%
Protestant – Other2%
Mainline Protestant2%

 
Asian
Other Affiliated46%
 • Hindu 28%
 • Buddhist 10%
 • Muslim 6%
 • Other 2%
Catholic26%
Unaffiliated11%
 • Spiritual 4%
 • Other 7%
Evangelical Prot.8%
Mainline Protestant7%
Protestant – Other2%

Religious Traditions by Race


Total Population
White70%
Hispanic13%
African American 11%
Asian5%
Native American1%

Black Protestant
African American 95%
White5%

Evangelical Protestant
White87%
African American 6%
Hispanic6%
Asian1%
Native American<1%

Mainline Protestant
White92%
African American 3%
Asian3%
Hispanic2%
Native American1%

Catholic
White58%
Hispanic35%
Asian5%
African American2%
Native American1%

Jewish
White95%
African American 5%

Muslim
Asian50%
White43%
African American 7%

Buddhist
White55%
Asian41%
African American 3%

Hindu
Asian97%
White3%

Spiritual
White74%
African American 14%
Hispanic9%
Asian2%
Native American1%

Atheist
White76%
Hispanic14%
Asian7%
African American 3%

Agnostic
White80%
African American7%
Hispanic4%
Asian4%
Native American4%


Emerson, Michael. 2006. People of the dream: Multiracial congregations in the United States. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.


Give us your feedback!

Through out these sections, we invite you to enter the discussion about these findings and what their implications may be. Click on the COMMENT link to send your thoughts to pals@rice.edu. Where appropriate we will include comments for others to read and discuss. Names of contributors will not be posted, but, if you like, include your religious tradition.

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