One-in-Five U.S. Adults Were Raised in Interfaith Homes

Source: Pew Research Center

Roughly one-in-five U.S. adults were raised with a mixed religious background, according to a new Pew Research Center study. This includes about one-in-ten who say they were raised by two people, both of whom were religiously affiliated but with different religions, such as a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, or a Jewish mother and a Protestant stepfather. An additional 12% say they were raised by one person who was religiously affiliated (e.g., with Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism or another religion) and another person who was religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”).

To be sure, religiously mixed backgrounds remain the exception in America. Eight-in-ten U.S. adults say they were raised within a single religion, including two-thirds who say they were raised by two people who shared the same religion (or both of whom were religiously unaffiliated) and an additional 14% who say they were raised by a single parent.

But the number of Americans raised in interfaith homes appears to be growing. Fully one-quarter of young adults in the Millennial generation (27%) say they were raised in a religiously mixed family. Fewer Generation Xers (20%), Baby Boomers (19%) and adults from the Silent and Greatest generations (13%) say they were raised in such a household.

The religious backgrounds of young adults also stand out in other ways. For example, nearly one-quarter of Millennials (24%) say they were raised by at least one parent who was a religious “none,” including 15% who were raised by one religiously affiliated person and one unaffiliated person; 6% who say they were raised by two parents, both of whom were unaffiliated; and 3% who were raised by a single parent who was unaffiliated with any religion. By contrast, only 11% of adults in the Silent and Greatest generations say they had one or more religiously unaffiliated parents.

In addition, only a quarter of Millennials (24%) say they were raised by two Protestant parents, once the archetype of an American family. Twice as many adults in the Silent and Greatest generations (48%) say they were raised by two Protestants.

What is the impact of coming from a religiously mixed or matched background? Here, the survey reveals several patterns:

  • Religious “nones”: Americans are most likely to identify in adulthood as religiously unaffiliated if they were raised exclusively by a parent or parents who were unaffiliated themselves. Indeed, among adults who say they were raised either by a single parent who had no religion or by two people who were both religious “nones,” a solid majority (62%) identify as “nones” today.

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