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Report Wades Through Complexity of Religion Among Asians Report Wades Through Complexity of Religion Among Asians

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The Next America - Demographics 2012 / Demographics

Report Wades Through Complexity of Religion Among Asians

Three Buddhists from a monastery in Yeagertown, Pa., wait in line to pay for items at a Lowe's store.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

photo of Doris Nhan
July 19, 2012

In June, the Pew Research Center released a 225-page report on Asian-Americans. What it found was a complex portrait that, many advocates would argue, still barely scratched the surface of what it really means to be an Asian in the U.S. A new report released on Thursday by the Pew Forum found that when it comes to religion, it’s not any easier to determine trends among America’s fastest-growing racial cohort.

(RELATED: Pew Report Highlights the Oft-Overlooked Growth of Asian-Americans)

The largest share of Asians, 42 percent, identify as Christians. About a quarter said they were unaffiliated, while about 14 percent identified as Buddhist. Even with the large segment of Asians identifying as Christians, the cohort has been largely responsible for the growth of non-monotheistic faiths in the U.S., particularly Buddhism and Hinduism, Pew found.

About 17.6 million Asians live in the U.S., making up a mere 6 percent of the total U.S. population. But the relative growth has been substantial: Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Asians in the U.S. grew by 46 percent, the fastest of any racial group.

Roughly 83 percent of all Asians come from six countries of origin, the original Pew report found. That still leaves 17 percent who make up about 20 other ethnic groups and countries of origin.

The rehash of these statistics is significant because what the Pew Forum found was that the amalgamation of religious beliefs among Asians is just as varied as their ethnic and demographic makeup.

The Pew Forum’s report found that religious affiliation is highly dependent on ethnic background. For example, the majority of Filipinos in the U.S. are Catholic; about half of Indian-Americans are Hindu; most Korean Americans are Protestant; and about half of Chinese report being unaffiliated.

Asian-Americans can also be extremely devout or deeply secular. About 76 percent of Asian evangelical Protestants attend church, compared with 64 percent of white evangelicals. Among Asians who are unaffiliated, 76 percent say religion is not important, compared with 58 percent of unaffiliated U.S. adults.

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