Study: 1 in 3 American Evangelicals Is a Person of Color

Students at Urbana 2012
Image: Barry Sherbeck / InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

A massive compilation of surveyed Americans across all 50 states offers a rare look at minority Christians.

While Protestants in the United States remain mostly white, the share of Protestants of color has grown steadily from 17 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2016, according to a report released today by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

“The American religious landscape has undergone dramatic changes in the last decade, and is more diverse today than at any time since modern sociological measurements began,” reported PRRI on its 2016 American Values Atlas, based on more than 101,000 bilingual surveys between January 2016 and January 2017.

In fact, the number of nonwhite Protestants has grown so large that the group has surpassed white mainline Protestants, and has nearly caught up with white evangelical Protestants.

Added together, minority Protestants—including black Protestants (8%), Hispanic Protestants (4%), and “Asian, mixed-race, or other” Protestants (3%)—make up 15 percent of the US population, while white mainliners make up 13 percent and white evangelicals make up 17 percent. (The margin of error makes this essentially a three-way tie.)

While white evangelicals, which PRRI defines as people who self-identify as both Protestant Christians and as evangelical or born again—have dropped from 23 percent of Americans in 2006, PRRI noted that they remain the “single largest religious tradition.” (By comparison, the Pew Research Center found that 25.4 percent of Americans were evangelical in 2014, down only slightly from 26.3 percent in 2007.)

To split it another way: Among white Americans, 68 percent are Christians, 47 percent are Protestants, and 27 percent are evangelicals. Among African Americans, 75 percent are Christians, 67 percent are Protestants, and 42 percent are evangelicals. Among Asian Americans, 30 percent are Christians and 16 percent are Protestants.

Among Hispanic Americans, 73 percent are Christians, but only 25 percent are Protestants. About half of those Protestants are evangelicals, according to PRRI. (LifeWay Research found a similar result this summer: 60 percent of Hispanic Protestants surveyed identified as evangelicals.)

Or to split it yet another way: About a quarter of Americans (26%) are self-identified evangelicals. About two-thirds of those evangelicals are white (64%), while 19 percent are black, 10 percent are Hispanic, and the remaining 6 percent are Asian, mixed race, or other ethnicities.

But that doesn’t mean that each US denomination is about a third nonwhite. “The degree of racial and ethnic diversity among Protestants varies considerably between denominational families,” PRRI noted.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

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