Longitudinal Religious Congregations and Membership File, 1980-2010 (State Level)

Data Archive > U.S. Church Membership Data > State-Level > Summary



This dataset is a longitudinal version of the Churches and Church Membership in the United States studies from 1980 and 1990, and the Religious Congregations and Membership Studies from 2000 and 2010. It contains the adherent and congregation counts of 302 religious groups that participated in at least one of the 1980-2010 data collections.

It is very important to understand how this file differs from its standalone counterparts, and its many limitations. Using these data for over-time comparisons without reading any documentation will likely result in inaccurate statistics. Data users are strongly urged to read the paper by Rachel Bacon, Roger Finke and Dale Jones that details all the changes made when creating the longitudinal file. Major changes made to the file include new variable naming schemes, new combined religious groups that correct for schisms and mergers, new adherent counts for the United Methodist Church, and count estimates for missing data among 40 groups. Users can download the appendices here: Appendix A, Appendix B, Appendix C.

Data File
Cases: 18,309
Variables: 13
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: 1980: 1979-1981 1990: 1990-1991 2000: 1999-2001 2010: 2009-2011
Funded By
The religious organizations helping to fund one or more of the collections included: Aid Association for Lutherans; Office of Research, Evaluations and Planning of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (New York); Department of Records and Research of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Glenmary Research Center (Washington, D.C.); Research Service Department of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.; The Lilly Endowment, Inc.; John Templeton Foundation; Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies; Glenmary Home Missioners; Church of the Nazarene; American Baptist Churches in the USA; National Association of Free Will Baptists; Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); United Church of Christ; Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Collection Procedures
1980:
On August 6, 1979, an invitation to participate in the study was sent to all the Judeo-Christian church bodies listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, plus a few others for whom addresses could be found. Each denomination was assigned a member of the study's executive committee, whose responsibility was to encourage participation, by personal contact and other means and to answer questions. The initial written invitation was followed by four additional general mailings and by special letters, personal visits and phone calls. As a result of these efforts, which extended over a two-year period, 228 denominations were invited, 111 actually participated, 21 expressed the intention to participate but were prevented from doing so, 36 declined to participate and 60 did not respond.

Denominations agreeing to participate were asked to appoint a contact person, and signify their intentions on a special form. Three forms were then sent to the contact persons: instructions for reporting data; a transmittal sheet to be signed and sent with the data collected; and a state-county form for listing the statistics themselves. The contact persons were given the option of submitting their own computer printout according to the prescribed format or of using the forms provided by the study. The process put the major burden of work on the denominational offices, since they were asked to compile data by county for all their congregations. In some cases, however, denominations were able to furnish information only in the form of yearbooks or other sources. Transferring yearbook information into county data then became the responsibility of the CMS staff. In a few cases the denominations instructed the CMS staff to estimate congregational membership according to a formula, and approved the result. In all instances, however, the denominational contact person reviewed the statistics and signed the transmittal sheet.

The CMS staff employed the following procedures for checking the data submitted. The state and national totals were first checked against the county data and discrepancies adjusted. A printout was then made of all the data. To insure the accuracy of data-entry into the computer, the state and national totals were then compared to the original documents, as checked and adjusted. If the denomination participated in 1971 and the difference in a given county's membership for 1980 was greater than 20 percent, this was noted on the printout. The printout was then sent back to the denominational contact person, along with the staff's comments and questions. Only after all problems raised by both the staff and denominational contact person were solved were the statistics considered ready for publication. When the 1980 U.S. county figures for persons 13 years of age or under were received from the Census Bureau on April 12, 1982, the total adherents for groups reporting only communicants were estimated, according to the formula described above. The final step was to run a series of computer edit tests to check for errors and to produce the printout of tables for this report.

1990:
In October 1989, an invitation to participate in the study was sent to all the Judeo-Christian church bodies listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, plus a few others for whom addresses could be found. The initial written invitation was followed by four additional general mailings and by special letters, personal visits and phone calls. As a result of these efforts, which extended over a two-year period, 246 denominations were invited, 133 actually participated, 18 expressed the intention to participate but were prevented from doing so, 15 declined to participate and 80 did not respond.

Denominations agreeing to participate were asked to appoint a contact person. Two forms were then sent to the contact person: instructions for reporting data; and a transmittal sheet to be signed and sent with the data collected. A state-county form for listing the statistics themselves was made available by request. The contact persons were given the option of submitting the data via their own computer printout, of sending the data on diskette, or of using the state-county listing provided by the study. The process put the major burden of work on the denominational offices, since they were asked to compile data by county for all their congregations. In some cases, however, denominations were able to furnish information only in the form of yearbooks or other sources. Transferring yearbook information into county data then became the responsibility of the Research Center staff. In a few cases the denominations instructed the Research Center staff to estimate congregational membership according to a formula, and approved the result. In all instances, however, the denominational contact person reviewed the statistics.

The Research Center staff employed the following procedures for checking the data submitted. The state and national totals were first checked against the county data and discrepancies adjusted. A printout was then made of all data. To insure the accuracy of data-entry into the computer, the state and national totals were then compared to the original documents, as checked and adjusted. If the denomination participated in 1980 and the difference in a given county's membership for 1990 was unusual, this was noted on the printout. The printout was then sent back to the denominational contact person, along with the staff's comments and questions. Only after all problems raised by both the staff and denominational contact person were solved were the statistics considered ready for publication. When the 1990 U.S. county figures for persons 13 years of age or under were received from the Census Bureau on April 12, 1982, the total adherents for groups reporting only communicants were estimated, according to the formula described above. The final step was to run a series of computer edit tests to check for errors and to produce the printout of tables for this report.

2000:
The actual data collection was carried out in the offices of the Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, Missouri. Richard Houseal, Media Center Coordinator for USA/Canada Mission/Evangelism, oversaw the data collection. In 1999 an invitation to participate in the study was sent to every U.S. religious body listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Additional contacts were suggested by the Advisory Committee and by members of the Operations Committee. The initial written invitation was followed by two additional general mailings and, where needed, by special letters, personal visits and phone calls. As a result of these efforts, which extended over a two-year period, 285 denominations were invited, 149 actually participated, 22 expressed the intention to participate but were prevented from doing so, 12 declined to participate and 102 did not respond.

Groups agreeing to participate were asked to appoint a contact person. Two forms were then sent to the contact person: instructions for reporting data; and a transmittal sheet to be signed and sent with the data collected. A state-county form for listing the statistics themselves was made available by request. The contact persons were given the option of submitting the data via their own computer printout, sending the data electronically, or using the state-county listing provided by the Church of the Nazarene Research Center staff. The process put the major burden of work on the religious groups, since they were asked to compile data by county for all their congregations. In some cases, however, groups were able to furnish information only in the form of yearbooks or other sources. Transferring yearbook information into county data then became the responsibility of the Research Center staff. In a few cases the groups instructed staff to estimate congregational membership according to a formula, and approved the result. In all instances, however, the contact person was asked to review the statistics.

The Research Center staff employed standard procedures for checking the accuracy of data submitted. The state and national totals were checked against the county data and discrepancies adjusted. When appropriate, the estimating procedure for adherents was applied. A printout was then made the data, comparing 1990 figures to 2000 figures for each county and state. A series of four maps was also created, comparing 1990 and 2000 presence by county, location of congregations, ratio of adherents to each county's population, and number of adherents by county. These materials were reviewed by the staff and then sent to the contact person. Only after all problems raised by both the staff and the contact person were resolved were the statistics considered ready for publication. The final step was to run a series of computer edit tests to check for errors. Finding incorrect county codes and locating records with no data were the most common corrections at that step. Finally, the Church of the Nazarene staff produced the printouts of tables and maps.

2010:
The Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas carried out the actual data collection. Richard Houseal, Research Services Manager, oversaw the data collection. Following the initial written invitation, two additional general mailings were sent. Those not responding to these received still additional special letters, personal contacts, emails, and phone calls. Altogether, 296 groups were invited to participate; of which 236 are included in the study. Seven groups intended to participate but did not, four declined to participate and 49 did not respond in any way.

Groups agreeing to participate were asked to appoint a contact person. Two forms were sent to the contact person: instructions for reporting data and a transmittal sheet to be signed and sent with the data collected. When requested, a state-county form for listing the statistics was provided. Contact persons could provide the data electronically, in printout, or using the state-county listing provided by the Church of the Nazarene Research Services staff.

The process put the major burden of work on the offices of the various religious groups, since they were asked to compile data by county for all their congregations. In some cases, however, groups were able to furnish information only in the form of yearbooks or other sources. Transferring yearbook information into county data then became the responsibility of the Church of the Nazarene Research Services staff. In a few cases, the groups instructed the staff to estimate congregational membership according to some formula, and approved the result. In all instances, the contact person was asked to review the statistics.

The Research Services staff employed standard procedures for checking the accuracy of data submitted. This included checking state and national totals against county data and adjusting discrepancies (reviewing adjustments with the contact person) and, when appropriate, applying the estimating procedure for adherents. Several items were prepared for review by the contact person. These included a spreadsheet of the data that compared 2000 figures to 2010 figures for each county and state, as well as a series of maps comparing 2000 and 2010 presence by county, and, for 2010, location of congregations, ratio of adherents to each county’s population, and number of adherents by county. Only after all problems raised by both the staff and the contact person were resolved were the statistics considered ready for publication. The final step was to run a series of computer edit tests to check for errors. Finding incorrect county codes and locating records with no data were the most common corrections at that step.
Sampling Procedures
1980:
The studies' sponsors invited all Judeo-Christian religious bodies listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches to participate. Final totals include information from 111 Christian and other religious bodies. The 111 groups reported 231,708 congregations with 112,538,310 adherents, which is 49.2 percent of the total population of 225,011,986. No attempt was made to count strictly independent churches that have no connection with a denomination.

With the assistance of the United Synagogue of America, the full members (individual adult members) of 793 Conservative synagogues were identified by county. With the assistance of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the full members of 708 Reform congregations were also identified by county. No county information was available on either full members or adherents of Orthodox synagogues.

Four black denominations, accounting for 1.8 million adherents, participated in the study. Major efforts were made to enlist the participation of the four other large black churches and the 17 smaller black denominations listed in the Yearbook, but without success. Four Orthodox bodies, accounting for combined adherents of 55,000, participated in the study. Although sizeable efforts were made to obtain data for the remaining 17 groups, statistics were not obtained. Besides the denominations mentioned above, there are 11 non-participating church bodies that reported more than 100,000 to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

1990:
The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) invited all Judeo-Christian religious bodies listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches to participate. Final totals include information from 133 Christian and other religious bodies. The 133 groups reported 255,173 congregations with 137,064,509 adherents, which is 55.1 percent of the total population of 248,709,766. Five groups (Black Baptists; Congregational Christian Churches [not part of any national CCC body]; Independent, Charismatic Churches; Independent, Non-Charismatic Churches; and Jewish adherents) are not denominations or fellowships, but account for 12.2 percent of the adherents in the United States. There are 21 non-participating church bodies that reported more than 100,000 members to the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. These groups reported a combined membership of 20.8 million in the Yearbook.

William Newman and Peter Halvorson provided county estimates of the Jewish population for this study, based upon the American Jewish Year Book. Generally, a county was included in the study only if it or its metropolitan area contained at least 100 adherents. Barry Kosmin provided a list of synagogues throughout the United States. These have been located by county and are included in the study. Together, the reports indicate nearly 6 million adherents in 3,975 synagogues. Due to the differing reporting procedures, some counties report adherents with no synagogues, and others report synagogues but no adherents.

Three predominantly black denominations, accounting for 1.2 million adherents, participated in the study. There is no way of telling how many blacks are adherents of the other denominations appearing in the study. Major efforts to enlist the participation of other black denominations were made. Generally, membership records are not kept nationally, at least not in a form conducive to participation in a study such as this.

2000:
The sponsors invited all religious bodies that could be identified as having congregations in the United States to participate. In addition, efforts were made to identify and gather data from large independent congregations. In 1999, an invitation to participate in the study was sent to every U.S. religious body listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Additional contacts were suggested by the Advisory Committee and by members of the Operations Committee. The written invitation was followed by two general mailings, and, where needed, by special letters, personal contacts, and phone calls. As a result of these efforts, which extended over two years, 285 groups were invited, 149 actually participated, 22 expressed the intention to participate but were unable to do so, 12 declined to participate and 102 did not respond.

2010:
The sponsors invited all religious bodies that could be identified as having congregations in the United States to participate. In 2009, an invitation to participate in the study was sent to every U.S. religious body listed in the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Invitations also were sent to contacts suggested by the Advisory Committee and by members of the ASARB. Several special efforts were made to identify and include data from several religious bodies that have not traditionally participated or been underrepresented in similar past studies. These included independent or non-denominational churches, Jewish synagogues, historically African American churches, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.
Principal Investigators
Glenmary Research Center, Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, Clifford Grammich, Kirk Hadaway, Richard Houseal, Dale E. Jones, Alexei Krindatch, Richie Stanley and Richard H. Taylor
Related Publications
Bacon, Rachel J., Roger Finke, and Dale E. Jones. Forthcoming. “Merging the Religious Congregations and Membership Studies: A Data File for Documenting American Religious Change.” Review of Religious Research.

Steensland, Brian, Jerry Park, Mark Regnerus, Lynn Robinson, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Robert Woodberry. 2000. The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art. Social Forces 79:291-318.

Grammich, Clifford, C. Kirk Hadaway, Richard Houseal, Dale E. Jones, Alexei Krindatch, Richie Stanley, and Richard H. Taylor. 2012. 2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study. Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

Jones, Dale E., Sherri Doty, Clifford Grammich, James E. Horsch, Richard Houseal, Mac Lynn, John P. Marcum, Kenneth M. Sanchagrin, and Richard H. Taylor. 2002. Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States 2000: An Enumeration by Region, State and County Based on Data Reported for 149 Religious Bodies. Nashville, TN: Glenmary Research Center.

Bradley, Martin B. , Norman M. Jr. Green, Dale E. Jones, Mac Lynn, and Lou McNeil. 1992. Churches and Church Membership in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Glenmary Research Center.

Quinn, Bernard, Herman Anderson, Martin B. Bradley, Paul Goetting, and Peggy Shriver. 1982. Churches and Church Membership in the United States, 1980. Washington, D.C.: Glenmary Research Center.
Notes
In the data, the RELTRAD variable identifies which broad religious tradition each religious group belongs to according to an article by Steensland et al (2000). Another variable, FAMILY, categorizes groups according to their historical backgrounds. The list of groups included in each category can be found at http://www.thearda.com/denoms/families/groups.asp.
Appendices
Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C
Bookmark and Share