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Gender, Age, Education & Geography

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As in the population overall, African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16% vs. 9%). African-American women are somewhat more likely than African-American men to describe themselves as Protestant (82% of women vs. 72% of men). Among African-American women, 62% are members of historically black Protestant churches, 16% are affiliated with evangelical churches and 4% are mainline Protestant; among men, 55% are members of historically black churches, 14% are evangelical and 4% are mainline Protestant.

African-American women also stand out for their high level of religious commitment. More than eight-in-ten black women (84%) say religion is very important to them, and roughly six-in-ten (59%) say they attend religious services at least once a week. No group of men or women from any other racial or ethnic background exhibits comparably high levels of religious observance.


African-Americans are more likely to be affiliated with a faith compared with the public overall, but as with the general population, younger African-Americans are more likely than their older counterparts to report being unaffiliated with a religion. For example, nearly one-in-five African-Americans under age 30 (19%) are unaffiliated, compared with just 7% of African-Americans who are age 65 and older.


Among African-Americans with less than a high school education, nearly two-thirds (63%) are members of historically black churches, as are about the same number (60%) of African-Americans who are high school graduates. Among African-Americans who have completed college, however, fewer (53%) are members of historically black Protestant churches. Additionally, black college graduates are somewhat more likely to be part of mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as compared with those from other educational backgrounds.


While at least half of African-Americans in all regions of the country are members of historically black churches, a disproportionately large percentage of Southern blacks say they belong to historically black churches; nearly two-thirds of African-Americans who live in the South (64%) are members of this tradition. The West is the only region of the country where upwards of one-in-ten African-Americans (11%) describe themselves as Catholic. In the Midwest and the Northeast, the number of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion is similar to the share of the general population in these regions that is religiously unaffiliated. By contrast, in the South and the West, African-Americans are less likely to be unaffiliated compared with the overall population.

Fully 60% of all members of historically black churches reside in the South, with 19% residing in the Midwest, 13% living in the Northeast and 8% located in the West. This closely resembles the geographic distribution of the black community overall; 56% of African-Americans live in the South, 21% reside in the Midwest, 15% are located in the Northeast and 9% live in the Western United States.


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