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Luke Coppen's Catholic Herald Blog

Researchers claim there are 10 million Catholics in Britain

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The real number of Catholics in Britain is almost twice as large as the official Church estimate. That is the astonishing claim of the Centre for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

Writing on the centre’s Nineteen Sixty-Four blog, CARA statisticians estimate that there are 9,459,088 Catholics in Britain, as opposed to the official estimate of 5,106,000.

How did they arrive at that remarkable figure? They used two large international surveys which recorded the percentage of people who identified themselves as Catholics: the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) survey.

Then, as they explain:

The survey-based estimates are then applied to total mid-year population estimates for each country in 2005 from the US Census Bureau’s International Data base. In cases where there is both a WVS and CSES estimate the average of these two estimates is used. Although imperfect, these methods are the best available for providing global comparisons.

I do wonder whether the CARA estimate can possibly be right. After all, the two surveys CARA depends on vary wildly in their estimates of the British Catholic population. The WVS claims that 21.7 per cent of Britons are Catholic, while the CSES has an estimate of 9.6 per cent. In other words, the WVS implies that there are roughly 13 million Catholics in Britain, while the CSES suggests there are only 5.8 million. CARA uses the average of these two percentages – 15.7 per cent – to estimate that there are some 10 million British Catholics.

In addition to finding that the British Catholic population is nearly twice as large as previously believed, CARA found that the Church slightly overestimates the worldwide Catholic population and that the Church in Brazil claims there are 24.9 million more Catholics than there really are.

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Written by Luke Coppen

October 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks for the good eye Luke!

    Here is what what was behind your observation: http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2009/10/catholics-in-great-britain.html

    A revised and expanded analysis is here:
    http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2009/10/global-catholicism-aggregating-data-to.html

    Mark Gray

    October 24, 2009 at 12:28 am


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