Finds Stability in Percentage of Christians, But Large Shift in Where They Live
D.C. — With
Christmas fast approaching, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion &
Public Life published a new
comprehensive demographic report on the size and distribution of the
world’s Christian population. The study finds that there are 2.18 billion
Christians of all ages in more than 200 countries around the world,
representing nearly a third of the estimated 6.9 billion 2010 global
population. Christians are so geographically widespread that no single
continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global
In 1910, two-thirds
of the world’s Christians lived in Europe (according to historical data from
the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary in Massachusetts). Today, the Pew study finds, only about a quarter of
all Christians (26%) live in Europe (26%). A plurality — more than a third
(37%) — now reside in the Americas. About one in every four Christians (24%)
lives in sub-Saharan Africa and about one-in-eight (13%) is found in Asia and
In the last 100
years, the number of Christians around the world has more than tripled from historical
estimates of approximately 600 million in 1910 to more than two billion today.
But the world’s overall population has also risen rapidly, from an estimated
1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up
about the same portion of the world’s population in 2010 (32%) as they did a
century ago (35%).
stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas
still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is
much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). The proportion of Europe’s population
that is Christian dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010, while the proportion
of the overall population in the Americas (North America, Latin America and the
Caribbean, combined) that is Christian fell from 96% to 86%. Over the same
period, however, Christianity grew enormously in sub-Saharan Africa and significantly
in the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the
beginning of the 20th century. The share of the population that is Christian in
sub-Saharan Africa climbed from 9% in 1910 to 63% in 2010, while in the
Asia-Pacific region it rose from 3% to 7%.
These are some of
the key findings of Global Christianity:
A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population, which
provides data on the world’s Christian population by region, country and
tradition based on a country-by-country analysis of approximately 2,400 sources,
including censuses and nationally representative population surveys. The study
is part of the Pew-Templeton
Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation to analyze
religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
are diverse theologically as well as geographically. About half are Catholic. Protestants,
broadly defined, make up 37%. Orthodox Christians comprise 12% of Christians
worldwide. Other Christians, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, make up
the remaining 1% of the global Christian population.
as a whole Christians are by far the world’s largest religious group. Muslims,
the second-largest group, make up a little less than a quarter of the world’s
population according to previous studies by the Pew Forum.
half (48%) of all Christians live in the 10 countries with the largest number
of Christians. Three of the top 10 are in the Americas (the United States,
Brazil and Mexico). Two are in Europe (Russia and Germany); two are in the
Asia-Pacific region (the Philippines and China); and three are in sub-Saharan
Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia), reflecting
Christianity’s global reach.
- Although Christianity began in the Middle East-North Africa, that region today has both
the lowest concentration of Christians (about 4%) and the smallest number of
Christians (about 13 million) of any major geographic region.
Christians comprise just under a third of the world’s people, they form a
majority of the population in 158 countries and territories, about two-thirds
of all the countries and territories in the world.
now has more than twice as many Protestants (broadly defined to include
Anglicans and independent churches) as Germany, the birthplace of the
90% of Christians live in countries where Christians are in the majority; only
about 10% of Christians worldwide live as minorities.
report, which includes a companion quiz,
interactive maps and sortable data tables, is
available on the Pew Forum’s website.
The Pew Research
Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic
analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and
public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based
Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum
does not take positions on policy debates or any of the issues it covers.