By Allen Downey
The number of college students with no religious affiliation has tripled in the last 30 years, from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016, according to data from the CIRP Freshman Survey. Over the same period, the number who attended religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent. These trends provide a shapshot of the current generation of young adults; they also provide a preview of rapid secularization in the U.S. over the next 30 years.
Since 1966 the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) has surveyed incoming college students about their backgrounds, beliefs, and attitudes, including questions about their religious preference and attendance at religious services. In 2016, they surveyed more than 137,000 first-time students at 184 colleges and universities in the U.S.
Figure 1 shows how the number of students whose religious preference is “None” has changed over time. The retreat from religion starts around 1990 and accelerates, averaging almost 1 percentage point per year.
Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.