Mormons and the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

February 26, 2008 | 21 comments

Pew has a new, comprehensive survey of American religion. Its gotten attention around the blogosphere (e.g..) and, I believe, has been linked on the side bar. At the suggestion of a reader, here’s your chance to comment or to highlight any details you think will be of interest.


21 Responses to Mormons and the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey

  1. David G. on February 26, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Mr. Greenwood: You forgot this link.

  2. Dave Kitchen on February 26, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    I was surprised that 3% of the US mormons are black. Even though I have lived in heavily black wards (southside chicago), I would have thought the number lower. Even more striking is that the number of black US members is roughly half of US hispanic members and three times more than the number of US asian members. I wonder if the poll included pacific islanders as asians?

  3. Naismith on February 26, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Does anyone know how well their estimates of concentration of members aligns with the church figures?

    The numbers per state are at

    but I guess what we need is a table with all those state totals, then regrouped into the regions assigned by Pew, in order to make a direct comparison. Anyone seen a breakdown that would allow an apples-to-apples comparison?

    It would be nice to do the same for age and gender at least.

    Also, the sample of Mormons in he Pew study was only 581.

  4. Frank McIntyre on February 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Although this is not Pew’s fault, it is worth noting that we have a lot of converts, which means that simple comparisons of our mean outcomes (marriage, income, education) are going to mix the effect of being Mormon with the selection of people who have chosen to be Mormon. This would be just as true with other religions that have a lot of churn.

    And we are younger than most religions, which also makes it tougher to make apples to apples comparisons with other groups on outcomes of interest.

  5. jose on February 26, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    The data confirms certain stereotypes:

    86% of Mormons are white
    71% of Mormons are married (only 3% of Mormons shack up–1/2 national average)
    9% of Mormons have 4+ kids–three times national average
    76% of Mormons live in Western states
    46% of Jews earn 100k+/yr compared to 18% of national avg.
    6% of Jehovah’s Witness are college grad (3% post grad)–compared to 16% national (or 11% post grad)

  6. E on February 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I was shocked that educational attainment for LDS people was not higher. I had been under the impression that Mormons were more educated than other Christians in general.

  7. Big T on February 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    are our number dwindling? Percentage wise, it appears so, although it might not be statistically significant. Can it still be said we are the fastest (or one of) growing church in America? Doesn’t appear so. Seems like we’re treading water according to this data. Personally, I haven’t seen the growth some suggest- this is about where i would have thought we were in comparison.
    One other thought- with 44% of adult americans changing religion over the course of their lifetime we should be less afraid to say- hey, come join us.

  8. ZSorenson on February 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    The survey didn’t seem to include those under the age of 18. That makes sense, but in 5, 10, years the numbers will surely change dramatically.

    Also, living on the east coast, it doesn’t seem like mormons should be that educated. Most I know go to BYU, and if they can’t, a community school. I was surprised by how many smart workers on my mission had no college plans. I’ve never lived outside of the east coast, so I don’t know what it’s really like out there. However, education for mormons seems to be something that is done for sake of career options. In my small experience I haven’t seen a ‘thirst for knowledge’ in many members that I see in my classmates from home. I know plenty of people who like hunting, however.

  9. Dan Y. on February 26, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    The LDS are a thoroughly middle class people. By my reading, they are the only major religion with lower than average shares of people in both the lowest income bracket and the highest income bracket.

  10. Adam Greenwood on February 27, 2008 at 12:19 am

    Thanks for the links and comments.

  11. manaen on February 27, 2008 at 1:43 am

    #2. I also am surprised/pleased to learn that 3% of U.S. LDS are Black. I find it interesting that our 3% Black demographic overshadows the Catholics\’ and Mainline Protestants\’ 2%.

  12. manaen on February 27, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Correction to my comment in #11: the detailed table on ethnicity by religion shows that although 3% of “Mormons” are black, only 2% of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ members are black. This still leaves us even with the Catholics and the Mainline Protestants.

    2% of the 5.8 million U.S. LDS at the end of 2006 would mean 116k black U.S. LDS then. This is tremendous growth from the estimated 2k total black membership in the 1960s.

  13. Naismith on February 27, 2008 at 8:07 am

    “although 3% of “Mormons” are black, only 2% of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ members are black. This still leaves us even with the Catholics and the Mainline Protestants.”

    Except that the margin of errror for Catholics and Mainline Protestants is much, much smaller than the 4.19% margin of error associated with this sample. (And frankly, I bet the error associated with that particular characteristic is even higher; margin of error is based on sample size, and many researchers won’t even release findings on a particlar item if they didn’t have at least 25 of something in sample…do we think that with only 547 LDS, they talked to 25 Blacks?)

    This means that every estimated percentage in the table is plus or minus 4 percentage points. So the percentage of whites is between 83% and 91%.

  14. Adam Greenwood on February 27, 2008 at 10:19 am

    We can be confident that the survey overstates the number of black Mormons by at most 2%.

  15. Dave Kitchen on February 27, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Are you saying the number is at most overstated by 2% of the 2% or 2% of the 100%? :)

    I agree that the results may well be skewed because of sample size. Perhaps someone from Genesis Group can fill us in on the true number. I think I’ve seen Margaret Young post on t/s before.

  16. GuyC on February 27, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for posting this. The PEW Study is interesting! And the discussion on it is also very interesting.

    My own thoughts… I was surprised at 2 things…
    1) Average number of children per Mormon family. I’m surprised that Mormons are at the top in number of children per family. I always thought that Catholics were the highest.
    2) Growth rate. I thought we were growing faster than the study suggests. Although, now that I think about it, our truly fast growth is taking place outside the U.S.

  17. Frank McIntyre on February 27, 2008 at 11:32 am


    As I said, it is probably difficult to do much with the education numbers because it is not an apples to apples comparison. One would probably want to compare two groups of equivalent age where one was a member and one not. Further, one might like to concentrate on lifetime members, as education is fairly sticky, in that it changes little once one reaches adulthood. Thus adult converts are likely to have their “nonmember” education rates.

  18. Joseph D. Walch on February 27, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    For good or for ill, we should also remember that there aren’t as many LDS women going to Medical, Dental, MBA or JD school as other religious faith traditions. That would certainly skew the data, and indeed; I think it does (look at those who have ‘some college’ as a better indicator).

    I suspect that if the study were broken down by Gender then we would be able to ‘discriminate’ differences in education levels more precisely.

  19. Jonathan on February 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Fascinating study….. thank you for posting.

  20. E on February 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    OK, LDS women who dropped out of school after getting married or having children. You’re (apparently) bringing us down. Finish your degree!

  21. Bryan Stout on March 6, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Very interesting.

    I wish we could access the database to see how the numbers slice in any you want. For example:

    - How does the ethnic composition of the church vary by state, or at least by region? Here in the DC area, for example, it’s a lot more diverse than in the intermountain west.

    - How does the education vary by both gender and by region?


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