Among U.S. college students, religious attendance is at an all-time low – Probably Overthinking It


Within the final 30 years, faculty college students have change into a lot much less non secular. The fraction who say they don’t have any non secular affiliation tripled, from about 10% to 30%. And the fraction who say they’ve attended a non secular service within the final 12 months fell from greater than 85% to lower than 70%.

I’ve been following this pattern for some time, utilizing knowledge from the CIRP Freshman Survey, which has surveyed a big pattern of getting into faculty college students since 1966.

Essentially the most lately revealed knowledge is from “97,753 first-time, full-time college students who entered 147 U.S. faculties and universities of various selectivity and sort within the fall of 2018.”

After all, faculty college students are usually not a consultant pattern of the U.S. inhabitants. And as charges of school attendance have elevated, they characterize a special slice of the inhabitants over time. However, surveying younger adults over a protracted interval gives an early view of tendencies within the common inhabitants.

Spiritual choice

Amongst different questions, the Freshman Survey asks college students to pick out their “present non secular choice” from an inventory of seventeen widespread religions, “Different faith,” “Atheist”, “Agnostic”, or “None.”  

The choices “Atheist” and “Agnostic” have been added in 2015.  For consistency over time, I evaluate the “Nones” from earlier years with the sum of “None”, “Atheist” and “Agnostic” since 2015.

The next determine reveals the fraction of Nones from 1969, when the query was added, to 2018, the newest knowledge obtainable.

Share of scholars with no non secular choice from 1969 to 2018.

The blue line reveals knowledge till 2015; the orange line reveals knowledge from 2015 via 2018. The grey line reveals a quadratic match.  The sunshine grey area reveals a 90% predictive interval.

Since 2015, the whole fraction of atheists, agnistics, and Nones has been basically unchanged. The newest knowledge level is beneath the pattern line, which means that the “rise of the Nones” could also be slowing down.


The survey additionally asks college students how usually they “attended a non secular service” within the final 12 months. The alternatives are “Ceaselessly,” “Often,” and “By no means.” Respondents are instructed to pick out “Often” in the event that they attended a number of instances, so a marriage or a funeral would do it.

The next determine reveals the fraction of scholars who reported any non secular attendance within the final 12 months, beginning in 1968. I discarded a knowledge level from 1966 that appears unlikely to be appropriate (66%).

Share of scholars who reported attending a non secular service within the earlier 12 months.

About 68% of incoming faculty college students mentioned they attended a non secular service within the final 12 months, an all-time low within the historical past of the survey, and down extra 20 proportion factors from the height.

In distinction with the fraction of Nones, this curve is on pattern, with no signal of slowing down.

In earlier years I’ve additionally reported on the gender hole in non secular affiliation and attendance, however the knowledge are usually not obtainable but. I’ll replace when they’re.

Knowledge Supply

The American Freshman: Nationwide Norms Fall 2018
Stolzenberg, Eagan, Romo, Tamargo, Aragon, Luedke, and Kang,
Increased Training Analysis Institute, UCLA, December 2019

This and all earlier stories can be found from the HERI publications page.


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