By Aaron Earls
Evangelical denominations draw the most African-Americans, but they are increasingly the largest share of a shrinking Protestant pie.
More than half of African-Americans are still Protestants, but that number has declined as a growing number identify as part of a non-Christian faith or as part of no faith at all.
In 1972, 86 percent of African-Americans said they were part of a Protestant denomination, including evangelical, mainline, and historically black. Fewer than 1 in 10 were Catholic (8 percent), and tiny numbers were none (4 percent) or other religions (2 percent), according to the General Social Survey (GSS).
Since that time, however, nones have quadrupled to 17 percent and members of non-Christian faiths have increased sixfold to 12 percent.
That growth has come at the expense of Protestantism, which has dropped to 62 percent in 2016.
The percentages within Protestantism have been fairly steady over the past four decades.
Among African-American Protestants, 8 in 10 called an evangelical Protestant church home in 2016. Far fewer were mainline (12 percent) or historically black Protestant (9 percent).
But as other faiths and the irreligious have grown among African-Americans, those numbers represent a smaller share of the population as a whole.
In 2014, evangelical Protestants fell below 50 percent of the African-American population for the first time in the history of GSS.
Those numbers were just under 70 percent in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Among mainline Protestants, 1972—the first year of GSS—was the high-water mark. Slightly more than 23 percent of African-Americans were part of a mainline church.
Mainline Protestants have been almost exclusively in the single digits among African-Americans since the mid-1980s.
Historically black Protestant denominations saw a spike in the mid-1980s through the early ’90s, with a peak of 18 percent in 1987.
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AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.