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Washington, U.S.A. — As their numbers rise, Asian Americans have been largely responsible for the growth of non-Abrahamic faiths in the U.S., particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. Counted together, Buddhists and Hindus now account for about the same share of the U.S. public as Jews (roughly 2%).
At the same time, most Asian Americans belong to the country’s two largest religious groups: Christians and people who say they have no particular religious affiliation. According to a comprehensive, nationwide survey of Asian Americans conducted by the Pew Research Center, Christians are the largest religious group among U.S. Asian adults (42%), and the unaffiliated are second (26%). Buddhists are third, accounting for about one-in-seven Asian Americans (14%), followed by Hindus (10%), Muslims (4%) and Sikhs (1%). Followers of other religions make up 2% of U.S. Asians.
Each of the six largest subgroups of this largely immigrant population also displays a different religious complexion. A majority of Filipinos in the U.S. are Catholic, while a majority of Korean Americans are Protestant. About half of Indian Americans are Hindu, while about half of Chinese Americans are unaffiliated. A plurality of Vietnamese Americans are Buddhist, while Japanese Americans are a mix of Christians, Buddhists and the unaffiliated.
When it comes to religion, the Asian-American community is a study in contrasts, encompassing groups that run the gamut from highly religious to highly secular. For example, Asian Americans who are unaffiliated tend to express even lower levels of religious commitment than unaffiliated Americans in the general public. By contrast, Asian-American evangelical Protestants rank among the most religious groups in the U.S., surpassing white evangelicals in weekly church attendance (76% vs. 64%). The overall findings, therefore, mask wide variations within the very diverse Asian-American population.
These are among the key findings of a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life and Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project. “Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faiths” is the second report based on a nationally representative survey of Asian Americans, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center between Jan. 3 and March 27, 2012. The first report on the survey’s findings, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” was released in June. This report examines Asian Americans using religious affiliation, as the primary frame of analysis.