Religious demographics are analyses of populations on the basis of religious makeup, along with individual demographic breakdowns of various religions. Statistics on religious beliefs in a given region or population can provide important information about norms, beliefs, and attitudes. Numerous organizations study religious demographics and provide information to members of the public who are curious about the religious composition of various nations and demographic groups.
One form of religious demographic looks at the distribution or religions in a given nation, city, or region. In a Muslim country, for example, demographic studies will show high numbers of Muslims as compared to practitioners of other religions, while a nation with a secular government may have a more mixed population. The demographic breakdown can also look at demographic representation of sects within a larger religion, such as Sunni and Shia Muslims, to provide more background information.
In addition to looking at religion by regions, researchers can also evaluate religious faith within various demographic groups, like teenagers or older adults. This can illustrate trends over time, especially when researchers look at conversion rates as well as the numbers of people born into a faith. Religious demographics may show, for example, that although a country is predominantly Christian, younger citizens are less likely to count themselves among the faithful, or members of a particular ethnic group are more likely to practice a different religion.
Research on religious demographics is important for everything from advertising to foreign relations. Companies want to make sure that their ads are not offensive, for example, and want to avoid selling products in a region where there will not be a large market for them. In a predominantly Jewish community, for example, pork products are unlikely to be a big hit. Diplomats and other personnel involved in foreign relations usually study religious demographics before visiting new regions so they know how to behave and have an idea of the cultural norms they may encounter. This can prevent awkward situations like inadvertent insults to hosts or policy recommendations that conflict with religious beliefs.
Within religious groups, there is also a great deal of interest in demographics. Leaders of religious faiths want to know which groups within the population they are reaching and why. Conversely, they also want to explore why some people may not express interest in a faith, to see if it is possible to win converts with a change in positioning and tactics. Evangelical Christian churches in the United States, for example, use youth-oriented events to boost membership numbers among teens and young adults.