Where Catholics Live in the United States, Explained in 4 Charts

The Catholic population in the United States has grown by about 2 million people in the past 10 years.

Catholics in Mass.
Catholics in Mass. (photo: Shutterstock)

As 2022 is now in the near-distant past, here are four charts that help to explain, in visual terms, the Catholic presence in the United States. Catholicism is the largest religious body in 36 U.S. states, and the data show that Catholicism is growing fastest in the South and West, even as it declines in the Midwest and Northeast. 

The data for these charts come from the U.S. Religion Census, which is conducted by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies every 10 years, most recently in 2020. Its 2020 survey reported that there were 61.9 million Catholics in the U.S., about 18.7% of the population.

While Protestants collectively outnumber Catholics in the U.S, the researchers of the U.S. Religion Census viewed various Protestant bodies as their own denominational groups, not collectively. According to this categorization, Catholics are the single-largest religious group in the U.S. There are about three times as many Catholics as nondenominational Christians or Southern Baptists, the next two largest groups.

The Catholic population in the United States has grown by about 2 million people in the past 10 years. Much of that growth has been concentrated in the South — today, the South has more Catholics than any other region. Fifty years ago, 71% of U.S. Catholics were in the Northeast and Midwest; in 2020, 45% were. 

At the county level, Catholics are most prevalent mainly in New Mexico and in Texas along the Rio Grande. There is at least one Catholic congregation in 2,961 U.S. counties, a number bested only by the United Methodists.

Despite the large number of counties where Catholic congregations were present, the number of Catholic congregations — 19,405 — was the smallest that the Religion Census has counted in more than 50 years, reflecting consolidation within the Church. 

The average number of adherents per congregation is 3,000 for Catholics, unusually high compared with other groups. No other group had as many as 2,000 adherents per congregation, and only five others had as many as 1,000. Large Catholic congregations are especially common in the West, where there are 4,700 Catholics per congregation.

Kevin J. Jones contributed to this report.