Towards a Catholic North America?



Religion and religiosity are important identity markers, and changes in a country’s religious composition may affect its culture, value orientations and policies. In recent decades the Protestants in both the U.S. and Canada have lost their absolute population majority. We investigate the future of the religious composition in both the US and Canada jointly to the 2060s taking into consideration changes due to demography, the level and composition of migration, fertility differentials and intergenerational religious transmissions. We use a multi-dimensional cohort-component model to project from the early 2000s the populations of Canada and the U.S. separately according to various scenarios. The joint focus on both the U.S. and Canada allows one to better understand the commonalities and differences between these two nations which are tightly knit in terms of geography, politics, economics and culture. The results of the projections are sensitive to two main determinants: secularization and migration in terms of level and composition. Fertility also plays a role particularly in combination with migration patterns. At present, Catholics increase their proportion through immigration as the share of Catholics among migrants to the U.S. is larger than other religions and their fertility is higher than the U.S. resident population. The contrary is happening in Canada, and fertility differentials benefit Protestants and migration lowers the Catholic share. The projections reveal that North America should not become Catholic by mid-century but close to, with an increasing importance of minorities in the religious landscape.


Religious composition Transmission of religion Migration Fertility Secularization Multistate projections U.S. and Canada 



We would like to thank Laurent Martel and Patrice Dion for useful comments, Marcin Stonawski for his generous assistance with the data as well as participants in the VID colloquium on April 21st, 2011 (Vienna, Austria) where preliminary results were presented for wise suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ŐAW, WU), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)LaxenburgAustria
  2. 2.Vienna Institute of Demography/Austrian Academy of SciencesViennaAustria
  3. 3.Demography DivisionStatistics CanadaOttawaCanada

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