The first release of 2016 ABS Census data is here!

With it comes a host of insight on the religious make up and trends in Australia.  Click here to see an interactive dashboard we have developed to look at these results and you can interactively explore these to your heart's content.

As you may have already seen in the news there has been a big drop in the Christian percentage from 61.2% in 2011 to 52.1% in 2016.  This is counteracted by an increase in No Religion from 22.3% to 30.1%.

You can access the ABS commentary here and you can see further analysis and insight below.  Interesting trends with age and ethnicity have emerged and we will be investigating these further as more data is released.

Some of the changing results are due the changing format of the Religion question where No Religion has been moved from the last option to the first option in the questionnaire as can be seen below.

Census 2011

Census 2016

This should not detract from what is without doubt a rapidly changing society in Australia and the religion statistics are certainly a barometer of that.  

Below we can see how the main religions have moved around as a percentage of the Australian population in the last five years (see the dashboard for 2006 results as well).

Percentage Religion Mix of Population - 2011 v 2016

Results are quite consistent across states on the decline of Christianity.  Of note however is that Queensland has overtaken New South Wales as the 'most Christian' state or territory (at 56.0%).  This could well be driven by an aging population.  

Percentage of Christians by State/Territory - 2011 v 2016

Meanwhile Tasmania has the highest percentage of those claiming to have No Religion (38.2%).

Percentage of No Religion by State/Territory - 2011 v 2016

The denomination landscape within Christianity is also changing.  43.3% of Christian's align to being Catholic (up from 41.4% in 2011) and also an increase in those giving no details of their Christianity (3.6% to 5.0%).  Other denominations have declined in their share, especially Anglican from 28.0% to 25.4%.

Percentage Christian Denomination Mix - 2011 v 2016

The age profile data also provides some interesting insights.  Below we can see the vast differences between the very young Muslim population, the young-ish No Religion group and the much older Christian population.

Age Profiles of Christianity, Islam and No Religion - 2016

These differences also exist between Christian denominations.  Below we see a young Catholic population, an older Anglican population and a much older Presbyterian population.

Age Profiles of Anglicans, Catholics and Presbyterians - 2016

The latest results also give up the ability to track the religious make up of generations over time.  This provides some very interesting insights.  It should initially be said that these results are limited as we can't track person to person - instead only the summation of groups.  We also can't filter out the impacts of immigration.  Nonetheless we can look at the percentage mix of religions in 2006 and see how many have been 'retained' in 2016 (calculated as [% Christian in 2016] divided by [% Christian in 2006]).  This is indicated below by the red bar.

What is clear is that of the 1980's born generation there has been large falls in Christianity.  Only 66.5% of those saying they were Christian in 2006 say the same in 2016 (over looking the limitations mentioned above).  It is likely this group will have higher immigration levels which will impact this a bit.  Nevertheless, this is a major problem area for the church and would explain a large part of the overall Christian drop.  The challenge for the church is to stop this flow and likewise prevent the same occurring for those born in the 1990's.  Older generations remain much more loyal.

Retention of generational Christians from 2006 to 2016

The next phase of data will give access to granular data which will allow a more precise understanding of these results and any socioeconomic variables which may be influencing these. Expect to see more comprehensive results in a few more weeks.

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In the meantime - make the most of the data currently available and get in touch if you have any questions.

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