October 5, 2006

Spirit and Power - A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals

Demographic Portrait of Renewalists

Contrary to widespread perceptions, pentecostalism does not always draw disproportionately from the lower socioeconomic sectors of society. Whether pentecostals and charismatics have higher or lower income levels than the general population very much depends on the country in question.

In some countries, including the U.S., the survey finds that renewalist groups do tend to have lower income and educational levels. However, they are not necessarily poorer or less educated than the general population in the majority of the countries surveyed. In South Korea, for instance, people with high incomes are more highly represented among renewalists than in the general population. And in Nigeria, there are a higher proportion of well-educated people among pentecostals than in the population as a whole.

Another misconception is that renewalism appeals disproportionately to women. Although at least half of the renewalist population in all the countries surveyed indeed is female, the gender composition of renewalists in most countries closely resembles that of the country as a whole.

The survey finds that in some countries, including the U.S., certain ethnic or racial minorities are more highly represented among renewalists than in the general population, although the degree to which this is true varies from case to case.

With respect to another demographic characteristic, the survey finds that the number of children born to renewalists closely resembles the numbers among the general populations surveyed; the only exception is in Nigeria, where pentecostals have significantly fewer children than the general population. In none of the countries does the survey find that the average age of renewalists differs significantly from that of the general population.

Income

Income levels among pentecostals and other renewalists vary considerably by country. In the U.S., for instance, 58% of pentecostals have a household income that places them in the bottom two income categories, compared with 41%for the population overall, according to this survey. The differences between pentecostals and the general population are smaller but still notable in Chile (44% vs. 35%) and Guatemala (48% vs. 40%).

In most of the countries surveyed, however, those with lower incomes are not necessarily more prevalent among pentecostal and other renewalist groups. For example, in Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the regions of India surveyed, the Philippines and South Korea, renewalist populations do not include a disproportionately high number of lower-income people.

In two places – South Korea and the regions of India surveyed – the survey finds that there is a notably larger percentage of higher-income people among pentecostals than in the general population. In South Korea, for example, 63% of pentecostals are in the upper two income categories, compared with only 49% of the general population. Similarly, in the regions of India surveyed, 59%of pentecostals fall into the two higher-income groups, compared with only 39% of the general population. And in South Africa, there is a higher percentage of pentecostals (29%) in the highest income bracket than among the general population (20%).

In this survey, pentecostals have somewhat lower income levels than charismatics in the U.S., but they have higher income levels in the regions of India surveyed. In the other countries, differences in the income levels of pentecostals and charismatics tend to be less pronounced.
figure 1

Education

In most countries surveyed, renewalists have at least as much schooling as the general population; in fact, in Nigeria, pentecostals are much more likely than the public as a whole to have obtained at least some post-secondary education. In the U.S., however, renewalists, especially pentecostals, tend to be less educated than the population as a whole. In Chile, too, pentecostals have considerably lower educational levels than the overall population, though there is virtually no education gap when it comes to charismatics.

The survey also finds that charismatics and pentecostals tend to have comparable levels of education. Other Christians generally have similar levels of education as the general population.
figure 2

Gender

In nine of the 10 countries surveyed, more than half of pentecostals are women, and in India half are women. In four of these countries – the U.S., Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines – women account for more than 55%of pentecostals. However, in most of the countries, renewalists are not substantially more likely to be female than the general population. Only in Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines is the pentecostal population substantially more female than the general population; and only in Kenya and South Korea is the charismatic population substantially more female than the population as a whole.
figure 3

Race

According to the survey, in many of the countries there is no clear majority racial or ethnic group. And in South Korea and the regions of India surveyed, there is essentially no racial or ethnic diversity among survey respondents. However, in three of the four countries surveyed where there is a majority race – the U.S., Chile and South Africa – racial minorities are more highly represented among pentecostals than in the general population, although the degree to which this is the case varies by country. In the U.S. and Chile, charismatics are also more likely to come from minority racial groups as compared with the general population.

Kenya and Nigeria, where tribal rather than racial distinctions are important, manifest starkly different breakdowns in terms of renewalist communities. In Kenya, the distribution of pentecostals and charismatics among tribal groups closely resembles that seen among the general population. In Nigeria, however, the situation is quite different. There pentecostals are disproportionately represented among the Ibo, not at all represented among the Hausa, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, and represented among the Yoruba at about the same percentage as in the general population.
figure 4

Age

figure 6

The average age of renewalist populations is not very different from that of the general population, or from other Christians, in any of the countries surveyed.

Number of Children

The survey finds that in most countries, renewalists on average have roughly the same number of children as the general population. Only in one country, Nigeria, do pentecostals have considerably fewer children than the general population.
figure 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cite this publication: Joseph Liu. “Spirit and Power – A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (October 5, 2006) http://www.pewforum.org/2006/10/05/spirit-and-power/, accessed on July 23, 2014.