, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 199-214

Religion and fertility in the United States: New patterns

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In the United States, the baby boom-era pattern of high Catholic and low Protestant fertility has ended. Among non-Hispanic whites in the 1980s, Catholic total fertility rates (TFRs) were about one-quarter of a child lower than Protestant rates (1.64 vs. 1.91). Most of the Protestant-Catholic difference is related to later and less frequent marriage among Catholics. Future research on the demography of religious groups should focus on explaining the delayed marriage pattern of Catholics, the high fertility of Mormons and frequently attending Protestants, and the very low fertility of those with no religious affiliation.

The 1982 and 1988 National Surveys of Family Growth were planned and funded jointly by the National Center for Health Statistics, the Office of Population Affairs, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, all of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion held in Virginia Beach in November 1990. The opinions expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors, and not necessarily those of any of the above agencies. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers and the editor of Demography on a previous draft. We dedicate this article to the memory of the late Basil G. Zimmer and the late Donald L. Mosher.