Home > Spotlight Analysis > Ahead of Pope Visit, Racial and Ethnic Composition of Catholics in Each State
Ahead of Pope Visit, Racial and Ethnic Composition of Catholics in Each State
Daniel Cox, Ph.D., Joanna Piacenza,
09.15.2015

When Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. next week, an increasingly diverse Catholic community will greet him. Nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of Americans are Catholic, with 59 percent identifying as white, non-Hispanic; 34 percent as Hispanic, and seven percent as another race or ethnicity. Catholic populations vary substantially by state, however, and the pope’s American tour largely omits one racial and ethnic community: Hispanic Catholics.

PRRI-Catholic-by-state2

The pope’s itinerary will keep him mostly in the Northeast during his trip—visiting Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia—a part of the country with high concentrations of Catholics. According to the American Values Atlas, the four states with the largest percentage of Catholics are all located in the northeast: Rhode Island (44 percent), Massachusetts (38 percent), Connecticut (38 percent), and New Jersey (38 percent). New York (34 percent) and New Hampshire (31 percent) also boast sizable Catholic populations that are well above the national average.

PRRI-Catholic-race-state

Throughout the Northeast, white Catholics far exceed the number of Hispanic Catholics. Even in New Jersey, which has the largest Hispanic Catholic population of any state in the region, white Catholics outnumber Hispanic Catholics by a three-to-one margin (27 percent vs. 9 percent, respectively).

Southwestern states, known for their high Latino populations, understandably have higher percentages of Hispanic Catholics. In fact, Hispanic Catholics make up a majority of the Catholic population in four Southwestern states: California (20 percent Hispanic, 6 percent white), New Mexico (19 percent Hispanic, 7 percent white), Texas (18 percent Hispanic, 6 percent white), and Nevada (15 percent Hispanic, 8 percent white). A number of states are nearly evenly split—Florida (10 percent Hispanic, 11 percent white), Colorado (8 percent Hispanic, 9 percent white), and Idaho (8 percent Hispanic, 8 percent white)—and, with U.S. Census population projections forecasting that the Latino population will only grow, these states’ Catholic populations may soon become majority Hispanic Catholic.

For more on American Catholics, including their views on issues such as same-sex marriage, economic inequality, and climate change, read through our new report.

For more on the changing religious landscape of the U.S., explore the American Values Atlas.