One of the first commands from God recorded in the Bible was for Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. In other words, go make a bunch of babies. For generations upon generations, God’s people have done an admirable job of obeying that command. Not so much now, though. A new study claims that conservative Protestants are “becoming less fruitful.”
Analyzing data gathered from 1972-2016, the authors of the study confronted the belief that higher fertility rates are connected to “religious commitment and belief.” In their research, a drop in birth rates was a trend they discovered among both conservative Protestants and mainline Protestants. A 16 percent drop in birth rates was found in both groups. Since conservatives started with a higher baseline of children per household than their mainline counterparts, conservatives are still having children at a higher rate. However, the study did uncover some surprising trends.
The accepted wisdom has been that higher church attendance is connected to higher birth rates. The data from 1972 mostly bears this out: conservative Protestants who attended church regularly averaged 2.89 kids per household; those among that group who attended church less regularly saw a slightly lower number with 2.83 kids per household. Mainline Protestants adhered to the same pattern, and overall, their birthrate, at 2.48 kids per household, was lower than conservatives.
Conservative Protestants who attend church regularly now have a birth rate of 2.5 kids per household. Mainline Protestants who attend church regularly, however, did not see their birthrate drop. In fact, the data points to a slight uptick among that group.
The study also reveals that Roman Catholics who attend Mass regularly saw an increase in the birthrate from 2.62 kids per household to 2.72. Like Protestants, though, Catholics who are less faithful are having fewer children.
The study’s abstract concludes, “Unless offset by switching, our findings portend future population declines for conservative Protestants, notably, ones that are not attenuated by greater religious commitment.” The question, then, appears to be if this trend underlines the belief that conservative Christianity is entering the beginning of their end.
Thankfully, God has promised to build Christ’s kingdom through faith and not through physical lineage. While the trend of having fewer children isn’t necessarily good, conservative Protestants can rest in the promises of God and not fear for the continued existence of Christ’s Church.