The much-documented decline in religious affiliation among United States citizens may finally be slowing down, according to recent research.
Melissa Deckman, a Public Affairs professor at Washington College and affiliated scholar with the Public Religion Research Institute, recently examined religious trends among millennials and Gen Z. She found that millennials, Americans born between 1981 and 1996, and Gen Z, Americans born after 1996, are “awfully similar” to each other regarding “religious affiliation and religious behavior.”
“… the percentage of Gen Z Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated is similar to the Millennials found in PRRI’s 2016 American Values Survey,” wrote Deckman in a report published by Religion in Public, titled “Generation Z and Religion: What New Data Show.”
“In other words, it appears that the rate of younger Americans departing from organized religion is holding steady, so conflating Gen Zers with Millennials is not necessarily inappropriate when it comes to religious affiliation—at least so far.”
Comparing Gen Z individuals surveyed last year and millennials surveyed in 2016, she found an equal percentage identifying as religiously unaffiliated (38 percent).
Past research by various organizations, notably Pew Research Center, had reported declines in religious affiliation when comparing older generations of Americans to younger ones.
Citing other research, Deckman noted that the willingness to identify as “atheist” among Gen Z individuals was only “slightly higher” than millennials.
She did note that in some areas, Gen Z was more secular than the general population. For example, Gen Z was more likely than older generations to report rarely or never attending church and Gen Z had a smaller gender gap in religious practice than other generations.
“As is the case with church attendance, Gen Z women defy historical norms as they are just as likely to be religiously unaffiliated as Gen Z men,” she said.