Rhode Island had the nation’s third-most Catholic infant baptisms as a percentage of all babies born in 2010, with an estimated baptism-to-births ratio of 34%, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The state had 11,177 births and 3,804 baptisms that year.
The only two states with more Catholic infant baptisms as a share of births in 2010 were California (35.9%) and New Jersey (35.6%), the center said. Massachusetts ranked fourth (32.7%) and Connecticut ranked sixth (30.5%).
Rhode Island was still the most heavily Catholic state in the country as of 2008 despite a significant drop in the number of adherents over the last two decades, according to a survey by Trinity College’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture.
The share of Rhode Islanders identifying as Catholic dropped from 62% in 1990 to 46% in 2008, while the share identifying as having no religion jumped from 6% to 19%, the institute found. The drop-off in Catholicism cut the overall percentage of Rhode Islanders who are Christians from 91% to 74%.
The Catholic share of the population in Massachusetts fell from 54% to 39% between 1990 and 2008, while the Catholic share in Connecticut fell from 50% to 38%, according to the institute. New Jersey was the only state other than Rhode Island where more than 40% of the population was Catholic in 2008.
However, an alternative source – the 2010 census by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies – gives Massachusetts a slight edge over Rhode Island in the most-Catholic contest. The census put the number of Catholic adherents per 1,000 residents at 449 in Massachusetts and 443 in Rhode Island.
While it’s possible the share of Catholics in the two states changed in two years, it seems unlikely Massachusetts closed the 7-point gap reported by Trinity College between 2008 and 2010, suggesting their different methodologies have a significant impact.
Either way, the Catholic Church continues to be the dominant religion throughout the Northeast, according to this map created by the association based on the 2010 census data:
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