retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

This isn't a business story, but it is a demographic Eye-Opener … and I always think that any story about how the nation's population - its beliefs, traditions and behavior - is changing is worth reporting.

Axios has a piece about new Pew Research indicating that "Christians could fall below 50% of the U.S. population by 2070 if recent trends continue."

Over the last three decades, the story says, increasing numbers of Americans have stopped describing themselves as Christians and instead say they are atheists, agnostic, or "nothing in particular … Depending on whether this trend slows, stops or speeds up, Pew projects the number of Christians of all ages will shrink from 64% to between 54% and 35% of all Americans by 2070 … 'Nones' would rise from the current 30% to 34%-52% of the U.S."

This is, the story points out, an enormous shift:  "In 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian, Pew says. People who are religiously unaffiliated — sometimes called religious 'nones' — accounted for 30% of the U.S. population."

To be clear, this shift may be more about identity than belief;  just because a person is unaffiliated with an organized religion does not necessarily mean than they do not believe in a specific deity.  This change could reflect a broader skepticism in the nation's population about all institutions, but it also could be accelerated by the behavior of some religious institutions.  (The Catholic Church, for example, has alienated a percentage of its members through its handling of sexual abuse scandals and the priests who committed them.)

Businesses that depend on some level of institutional respect in their communities need to be aware of these Eye-Opening statistics, I think - they are reflective of broad and deep cultural shifts in how people think and how people act.  For retailers who depend on those people for their sales and profits, these things matter.