Demographic Portrait of Renewalists

  • January 17, 2008

Contrary to widespread perceptions, pentecostalism does not always draw disproportionately from the lower socioeconomic sectors of society. Whether pentecostals and charismatics have higher or lower income levels than the general population very much depends on the country in question.

In some countries, including the U.S., the survey finds that renewalist groups do tend to have lower income and educational levels. However, they are not necessarily poorer or less educated than the general population in the majority of the countries surveyed. In South Korea, for instance, people with high incomes are more highly represented among renewalists than in the general population. And in Nigeria, there are a higher proportion of well-educated people among pentecostals than in the population as a whole.

Another misconception is that renewalism appeals disproportionately to women. Although at least half of the renewalist population in all the countries surveyed indeed is female, the gender composition of renewalists in most countries closely resembles that of the country as a whole.

The survey finds that in some countries, including the U.S., certain ethnic or racial minorities are more highly represented among renewalists than in the general population, although the degree to which this is true varies from case to case.

With respect to another demographic characteristic, the survey finds that the number of children born to renewalists closely resembles the numbers among the general populations surveyed; the only exception is in Nigeria, where pentecostals have significantly fewer children than the general population. In none of the countries does the survey find that the average age of renewalists differs significantly from that of the general population.

Read the full analysis Demographic Portrait of Renewalists on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.