Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic World News

Number of religious in US expected to fall by nearly half over next decade

July 26, 2023

The number of religious sisters, priests, and brothers in the United States is expected to decline by nearly half over the next decade, according to “Projected Population of Religious by Age Group 2023-2033.”

The graph is one of four released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on July 25.

Relying on 2014 projections from Mercer mortality tables, “Projected Population of Religious by Age Group 2023-2033” predicts that the number of religious will fall from 33,000 to 17,000 between 2023 and 2033. In both 2023 and 2033, the majority of religious were projected to be 75 or over, with a much higher percentage of female religious than male religious projected to be over 75.

Population of Religious by Age Group 1985-2023,” another graph released by the bishops’ conference, relies on retrospective data from another source, the US bishops’ National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO). According to this graph—which breaks down religious into 25-49, 50-74, and 75+ age groups—the number of religious in the United States fell from approximately 124,000 in 1989 to approximately 38,000 in 2023. While retrospective data are clearly more accurate than prospective data, the NRRO data also suggest a steep decline in the number of religious in the United States over the next decade.

Historical Contributions and Distributions“ offers an overview of contributions to, and distributions by, the National Religious Retirement Office. Between 1988 and 2022, annual contributions and distributions, with rare exceptions, ranged between $20 million to $30 million.

Cost of Care 1987—2023“ chronicles the surge in the annual cost of independent living, assisted living, and skilled care. The weighted annual average of the three kinds of care rose from $15,000 in 1987 to over $55,000 in 2023, with skilled care now costing $82,000 annually.


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