Thursday, July 12, 2012

Concerning Results from 2010 Brazilian Census

The Brazilian Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística recently released 2010 census statistics on religious affiliation in Brazil.  The census found that 225,695 people identified as Latter-day Saint whereas the Church reported 1,138,740 members in Brazil in 2010.  These findings indicate that self-identified Latter-day Saints on the census account for only 20% of total membership officially reported by the Church in Brazil.  Furthermore, the percent of official LDS membership self-affiliating as Latter-day Saint on the census has declined over the past decade.  The 2000 Brazilian census reported 199,645 Latter-day Saints, or 26% of LDS membership reported for that year (775,822).  It is unclear whether there were any changes in reporting membership for various religious groups between 2000 and 2010 on the census, but other religious groups did not appear to exhibit any major increase or decline due to changes in reporting religious data.

The most concerning finding in comparing official LDS membership data and Brazilian census religious data is that the Church reported that membership increased by 362,918 members between 2000 and 2010 yet the censuses for these two years indicate a mere 26,050 increase in self-identified Latter-day Saints.  In other words, the increase in census-reported Latter-day Saints was only seven percent of the membership increase reported by the Church!

To the contrary, Protestants have experienced major growth reflected in both church-reported members and census-reported members.  In the past 30 years, the Brazilian census has revealed that the percentage of Protestants in the population increased from 6.6% to 22.2%.  LDS Church-reported membership constitutes less than one percent of the Brazilian population and census-reported LDS numbers comprise close to one-tenth of one percent of the total population.


Will said...

I don't know how they performed the census, but when the numbers of LDS members in Brazil are so small, relative to the total population, couldn't the margin of error move the number quite a bit? That being said suspected activity rates for the country are at about this ratio.

Jeff said...

Do you know if other South and Central American countries do a census and ask about religious preference?

If so, how does that data compare with Brazil?

Matt said...


Yes, this could very well be one of the reasons for why the increase in self-reported Latter-day Saints is so small. However, we would still see at least somewhat of a larger increase considering official LDS membership totals were in the hundred thousands.


A few Latin American countries report census numbers. Below is an excerpt from a case study on regarding census data and LDS member activity rates. This excerpt includes all religion census data that has Latter-day Saint figures that I am aware of>

Census data on religious self affiliation provide insights into member activity rates as many inactive members no longer identify as Latter-day Saints. These data are valuable as they are among the few which originate from outside the Church that describe the self affiliation of many Latter-day Saints. In Chile, self-identified Latter-day Saints on the 2002 census accounted for 20% of the Church membership reported for 2002, although the census did not query the religious affiliation of individuals under the age of 15. This number is reasonably close to the estimated member activity rate of the Church in Chile at 12%. In Brazil, 199,645 persons identified themselves as Latter-day Saints on the 2000 census,[1] just 26% of the number of members reported by the LDS Church at year-end 2000 and only a percent higher than the estimated member activity rate of Brazil (25%). In Mexico, the 2000 census counted 205,229 persons identifying as Latter-day Saints,[2] just 23% of the number of members reported by the LDS Church at year-end 2000. The estimated activity rate for the Church in Mexico is 20-25%; identical to the percentage of self-affiliated members on the 2000 census. In Ireland, the 2006 census counted 1,237 self-identifying Latter-day Saints; 46% of membership reported by the Church at the time whereas the estimated member activity rate for Ireland is 35%.[3] In Australia, the 2006 census reported 53,100 Latter-day Saints; 45% of nominal church membership notwithstanding member activity rates ranging from 25-30%. In New Zealand, the 2006 census tallied 43,539 Latter-day Saints; 45% of nominal membership on church records. LDS activity rates appear to range between 40-45% in New Zealand. In Samoa, the government reported that self-reported Latter-day Saints comprised 13.2% of the population whereas nominal membership constituted 36% of the national population.[4] Member activity rates in Samoa are estimated at between 35% and 40%; nearly the same percentage as the percentage of membership who self reported on the census. In Tonga, the 2006 census found that 16.8% of national population identified as Latter-day Saint although membership comprised 45% of the national population. Between 30% and 35% of church membership appears active, slightly lower than the 38% of church membership that self reported as LDS on the census. In Fiji, 32% of nominal church membership self-reported as LDS on the 1996 census. The current estimated activity rate for the Church in Fiji is between 20% and 25%.[5] In Iceland, government sources indicate that up to 75% of nominal LDS membership self-affiliates as Latter-day Saint[6] notwithstanding an estimated member activity rate of 40%. These findings indicate that the percentage of nominal church membership which self affiliate on censuses as Latter-day Saint generally ranges within ten percentage points of estimated member activity rates.

Matt said...

Here is a link to the entire case study complete with references.

Everaldo said...

I am brazilian lds and I am aware of the problem of inativity here. Even son this numbers don't reflect the reality, because we many new branches and wards being created and the Church is very strict with the numbers for doing that like real attendance, priesthood holders, etc numbers of records are considered in this evaluation. Talking about the evangelics is easier to identify with this group because there several church in each corner -.that is considered evangelic although not having not in common. I agree that exist many
members that do not consider themselves as lds por many reasons, for example, the lack of contact with the Church for several years, knowing the Church in the childhood, etc29

Roger Pack said...

maybe they self-report as protestant even if they're LDS.

Matt said...

Thanks for the feedback; our observation is that there is real growth in Brazil as indicated by congregational and stake growth and heightened standards for these units to operate.

Unknown said...

It seems to me, we're comparing Apples to Oranges here. We can't take a serious look at this question, unless we first define and explore HOW the information is both collected and reported. Last I knew, Brazil's census reports are gathered VERY differently than the recent USA census. This may explain any perceived difference of totals.
P.s. If your family in Brazil were practicing Catholics or Atheists, how would you report your preference to a "government" worker if you reported as a family. Does the "Catholic" family leader or parent report a family of 10 as all Catholic, if one has recently joined the LDS/ mormon chruch.. for example??