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Percentage of Christians Drops in All U.S. Age Groups

Majority of Americans claim the faith, but ‘religiously unaffiliated’ category is growing

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Most Americans are Christians, and the older an adult is, the more likely he or she is a member of the faith, according to recent Pew Research Center polling. But across the generational board, there has been a decline in the past decade in the percentage of those who claim adherence to the country’s most popular religion.

In a collection of 88 surveys from the past decade, Pew finds that 65 percent of U.S. adults now call themselves Christian, down from 77 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, the proportion of those who say they are “religiously unaffiliated” has increased in the same period from 17 percent to 26 percent.

When broken down by age, results from the multiple surveys show that the oldest Americans — the Silent Generation, born before 1946 — are 84 percent Christian. The figures for younger cohorts: boomers (born 1946 to 1964) 76 percent; Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) 67 percent; and millennials (born 1981 to 1996) 49 percent.

Other figures from Pew

  • Declines since 2009 in the proportion who identify as Christian by age group: Silent Generation: down 2 percentage points; boomers: down 6; Generation X: down 8; millennials: down 16.
  • Whereas in 2009, regular worshipers (those who attend a religious service monthly or more often) slightly outnumbered those who go occasionally or not at all. Today, the numbers are reversed: 45 percent attend at least monthly, and 54 percent attend only a few times a year or less. Those who “never” go have risen from 11 percent to 17 percent of the population.