Birth rates in the United States are near record lows, but not for everyone.
Under the surface of the fertility decline is a little-noticed fact: Births have declined much more among nonreligious Americans than among the devout.
Data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) from 1982 to 2019, along with data from four waves of the Demographic Intelligence Family Survey (DIFS) from 2020 to 2022, point to a widening gap in fertility rates between more religious and less religious Americans.
In recent years, the fertility gap by religion has widened to unprecedented levels. But while this difference may comfort some of the faithful who hope higher fertility rates will ultimately yield stable membership in churches and synagogues, these hopes may be in vain. Rates of conversion into unfaith are too high, and fertility rates too low, to yield stable religious populations.
Past religious fertility
Since 1982, the NSFG has asked respondents about their religious attendance and…