US church membership falls below 50 percent for first time: poll

The percentage of Americans who have membership in a house of worship has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in eight decades, according to a report released by Gallup on Monday.

U.S. church membership has steadily been declining for the past two decades. Before 2000, church membership had generally stayed around 70 percent from when Gallup began measuring it in the 1930s.

In 2020, membership reached an all-time low of 47 percent.

“The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference,” Gallup notes in its report. “Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.”

A small portion of the drop in membership is due to a decline in Americans who said they have formal church membership. From 1998 to 2000, 73 percent of religious Americans said they belonged to a church. That number has since dropped to an average of 60 percent of religious Americans.

Church membership is also strongly linked to age, Gallup notes. Among people born before 1946, 66 percent belong to a church with the share of people dropping as the generations progress. 58 percent of baby boomers, 50 percent of Generation X and 36 percent of Millennials report belong to a church.

However, regardless of generation, the share of U.S. adults who do not have a religious affiliation or belong to a church has continued to grow. The trend was also observed across all subgroups including men, women, Hispanics, political parties and region of the U.S.

“The U.S. remains a religious nation, with more than seven in 10 affiliating with some type of organized religion,” the Gallup report reads. “However, far fewer, now less than half, have a formal membership with a specific house of worship. While it is possible that part of the decline seen in 2020 was temporary and related to the coronavirus pandemic, continued decline in future decades seems inevitable, given the much lower levels of religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults.”

Tags church attendance Gallup Millennials Religion Religion in the United States Religious demographics Religious identity

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