The more things change, etc. Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life reports that over the last century the number of Catholics in the Church has more than tripled, from 291 million in 1910 to about 1.1. billion today, but the Church’s percentage of the world’s Christians (48% and 50%) and of the world’s population (17% and 16%) has stayed almost the same.

“What has changed substantially over the past century,” reports the Center, “is the geographic distribution of the world’s Catholics.”


  • In 1910, Europe was home to about two-thirds of all Catholics, and nearly nine-in-ten lived either in Europe (65%) or Latin America (24%). By 2010, by contrast, only about a quarter of all Catholics (24%) were in Europe.

  • The largest share (39%) were in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • Rapid growth also has occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, which today is home to about 171 million Catholics (16%), up from an estimated 1 million (less than 1%) in 1910.

  • There also has been rapid growth in the vast Asia-Pacific region, where 130 million Catholics (12%) now live, up from 11 million (4%) a century ago.


See The Global Catholic Population for more data. It reports about the American Catholic population, for example:

The United States is home to about 7% of all Catholics in the world. As of 2010, an estimated 23% of U.S. adults and 24% of the total U.S. population (adults and children) are Catholic.

The Catholic population in the U.S. has undergone some striking demographic shifts despite hovering around a quarter of the population for several decades. For example, the Catholic population has lost more members than it has gained from religious switching. In fact, one-in-ten adults in the United States is a former Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2009 report ” Faith in Flux.

In addition, the Catholic population in the U.S. has been heavily shaped by immigration and includes a rising share of Latinos. More than half (52%) of all migrants to the United States are Catholic. Of the estimated 75.4 million Catholics in the United States in 2010, 22.2 million were born outside the United States (30%). By comparison, slightly more than 13% of the overall U.S. population is foreign-born.

Three-quarters (76%) of Catholic immigrants living in the U.S. are from Latin America and the Caribbean, while about 10% have come from Asia-Pacific and about 10% have come from Europe. In recent Pew Research Center surveys of adult Catholics, 60% are non-Hispanic whites, 33% are Hispanic and 7% are other minorities, including Asians.

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