Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

White Christians are now a minority in these 19 states

(Image courtesy of Fady Habib - http://bit.ly/1EdbMNz)
(Image courtesy of Fady Habib - http://bit.ly/1EdbMNz)

(Image courtesy of Fady Habib – http://bit.ly/1EdbMNz)

The notion of America as a mostly white, mostly Christian country is rapidly becoming a fact for the history books.

“The U.S. religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is fundamentally reshaping American politics and culture,” says Dan Cox, research director for Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Last week, PRRI released the American Values Atlas (AVA), an interactive online tool that compiles data about Americans’ opinions, identities, and values. One of the biggest takeaways of this years’ study was that, for the first time ever, America is not a majority Protestant nation. Part of this shift is due to the growing number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, now at 22 percent nationally and 34 percent of young people.

The study also revealed that in 19 states, “white Christians” are now a minority group. The list of states where this is the case includes a few surprises. Several Southern and “Bible belt” states such as Georgia (#16) made the list, and Texas (#7) had the same population of white Christians as New York (#5). While one might want to blame these shifts on “secularism,” one force at work seems to be America’s increasing ethnic diversity. According to PRRI, Hispanic Catholics are a growing proportion of Catholics and evangelical Protestants are becoming less white.

Here is the full ranking of the 19 states with their corresponding percentages of white Christians:

1. Hawaii – 20 percent

2. California – 25 percent

3. New Mexico – 33 percent

4. Nevada – 36 percent

5. New York – 37 percent

6. Alaska – 37 percent

7. Texas – 37 percent

8. Maryland – 38 percent

9. Arizona – 38 percent

10. Washington – 42 percent

11. Florida – 42 percent

12. Oregon – 43 percent

13. New Jersey – 43 percent

14. Colorado – 44 percent

15. Illinois – 46 percent

16. Georgia – 46 percent

17. Vermont – 47 percent

18. Delaware – 48 percent

19. Louisiana – 49 percent

Explore the full American Values Atlas:
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NOTES: PRRI’s definition of “white Christian” includes those evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Mormons who identify as “white, non-Hispanic.” According to PRRI, “The American Values Atlas draws upon 50,000 annual telephone interviews among a random sample of Americans to deliver an unprecedented level of detail about the United States’ cultural and religious landscape.”

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.

11 Comments

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  • Has anyone done a poll on Heaven’s population? Would be interesting to find out percentage of White, Black, Brown, Purple and Green peoples in the heavenly abode.

  • It’s interesting that there are still so many white Christians in the Pacific Northwest, which is so liberal, and likewise Vermont. As far as the shrinking numbers of “white Christians,” I wonder how much of this is a religious issue and how much is really just an increasing ethnic diversity issue.

  • Guilt ridden whites along with self hating whites and their nonsensical religion are in the forefront of racial suicide.
    Only when the core whites have had enough will you see the White beast arise.

  • Not really, if you realize those areas did not become liberal havens overnight. In the pre-Civil Rights Act days, Washington and Oregon had some of the most racist versions of Jim Crow out there. New England had its own fair share of discriminatory policies back in the day

    Most of the defacto forms of segregation (redlining, blockbusting, etc) probably didn’t go away until about the mid-80’s. It takes more than a generation or so to change the demographics of such a large area.

  • Seek Help Tom. I figured this article would attract at least one panicky white supremacist. I was correct in the assumption.

  • I could be wrong, but I thought the West wasn’t as discriminatory as those areas where a lot of blacks and whites lived in close proximity. Jim Crow was only a southern code, wasn’t it?

  • The Pacific Northwest has a particularly onerous past with racism. Several Western states had their own version of Jim Crow. Especially Oregon
    http://gizmodo.com/oregon-was-founded-as-a-racist-utopia-1539567040
    “When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. Oregon’s founding is part of the forgotten history of racism in the American west.”

    Asians were barred from owning land in several states out West well into the early 20th Century, especially California. One must remember Silicon Valley was built on land from dispossessed Japanese farmers during WWII.

  • Thanks for the info. I had never heard any of this. I was just comparing time I spent in Oakland, where it seemed like the racial divide was at least bridgeable, and time I spent in the south, where it seemed like the Civil War was fought only yesterday and the air still crackles with hostility.

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