The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) recently made available statistics for the adherence to religious services on a county by county basis.
The study counts the congregations in each county and the number of people who adhere to their religious services.
Yolo County, with a total population of 168,660 at the time the survey was taken, had 60,983 regular attendants of religious services. At 36.2 percent, less than half of Yolo County residents fill up pews, temples and mosques to worship.
The largest religious denomination in Yolo County is Catholic, with a congregation of approximately 33,691 members. Second is Evangelical Protestantism, with 7,985 members and close behind is Mainline Protestantism with 5,796 members.
ASARB’s survey, which compiles data every decade, represents statistics on 149 religions and 268,240 congregations from 2000. For the first time, ASARB incorporated data on religions beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition, such as Islam.
This study also includes many lesser-known religions, such as Zoroastrian, Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches and Vineyard USA. Stephen Merino, a research associate with ASARB at Penn State’s Sociology Department, said every religious congregation has different requirements for defining a member, so researchers decided to use the term “adherents.”
“The term ‘adherent’ is a looser term than member, and this isn’t a survey as much as it is counting and comparing data,” Merino said. “A vast majority of people have a religion, but only a minority are actively involved with a congregation.”
According to the study, 54 percent of California residents regularly attend a religious service. Some major California metropolises included in the 58 studied counties were San Francisco, which reported 49.8 percent adherence, and the much larger Los Angeles County reported 70. 2 percent. Still, the county with the most religious adherents, at 77.8 percent, is San Benito County, south of San Jose.
California finished 30th in the country in rate of adherence to population. Utah had the highest rating in this category, at approximately 75 percent, while North Dakota, Rhode Island and Minnesota also finished in the top six. On the other hand, Oregon, Washington and Maine had the lowest rate of adherence to population.
William Swatos, executive officer of the Association for Sociology of Religion, believes the ASARB study is valuable and transparent because it shows changes in religious identification throughout the country over time.
“The study shows different religious concentrations across the nation, but also at the local level,” Swatos said. “You can see the areas of majority concentration for religious groups. It serves the interests for the government, researchers and community organizations by showing the religious fabricate of America.”
Furthermore, 114,762 Californians and 140,057,419 Americans were listed as unclaimed because they either did not adhere to a religion or their religious group, like several African American denominations and Buddhism, was not included in the data.
Roger Finke and Christopher P. Scheitle are researchers in the Sociology Department at Pennsylvania State University and helped compile the statistics for ASARB’s survey. They said because many religious groups did not participate in this survey, the results are less conclusive.
Finke and Scheitle believe the study has two major limitations. The undercount of memberships due to the groups excluded, as well as not calculating race and ethnicity into the findings, both preclude this survey from being a precise representation of Americans adherence to religious services.
ASARB obtained information from numerous organizations and then disseminated it to the public through statistics and maps.
The Glenmary Research Center was responsible for gathering and contributing the data for the Catholic congregations to ASARB. Lucy Putnam, an archivist at Glenmary, said the goal of providing the data is to enable specific denominations to highlight the counties without a congregation or permanent priest of their order.
“Our mission is to go into places where there is no Catholic Church,” Putnam said. “Originally, it helped us evangelize those with no religious affiliations whatsoever.”
ASARB provides in-depth data statistics about many aspects of religion in America. They are sponsored and housed at the Pennsylvania State University, receiving additional funding from the Lilly Endowment and the John Templeton Foundation.
MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at email@example.com.