The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life today released the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. According to the survey, .3% of the American population is Unitarian-Universalist. That means the number of adult Unitarian-Universalists in America is approximately 683,000 (rounded). If demographics hold true for UUs as for other religious groups, we would expect there to be an additional 228,000 children under 18 years old who are growing up in UU churches. However, it seems reasonable to expect that UU fertility is somewhat lower than average: firstly, because the average UU’s social class and level of education places her in a demographic that has smaller than average households, and secondly because many UUs come to Unitarian-Universalism as individual adults, and therefore in some cases their children are already grown and out of the nest. So perhaps we should make a rough guess that the number of kids is closer to 220,000 to 225,000 or so.
The UUA does not keep very good records on individual memberships in member congregations, but the current figures they are working with are about 163,000 adults and 57,000 kids/youth (these numbers are rounded). That means that Unitarian-Universalists in America overwhelmingly do not belong to congregations affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association: approximately 76% of UUs are not members of an UUA congregation, while only 24% of UUs do currently belong to a UUA congregation.
It would be interesting to compare these numbers to other denominations. Are Congregationalists in America represented in a similar ratio compared to members of the United Church of Christ? Do Presbyterians in America fall about 76% of the time outside of churches affiliated with the main Presbyterian bodies? Or is there something unique about Unitarian-Universalists that leads so few of them to affiliate with UU congregations? Is this something that the UUA should be worried about? Or is it perhaps a hint at a great potential waiting to be tapped? What leads a UU not to affiliate with a congregation? Or to affiliate? And how does UU identity play itself out beyond congregations? It is often noted that perhaps 90% of people raised Unitarian-Universalist do not go on to join a UU church. Are they the bulk of these hundreds of thousands of non-affiliated UUs–have they left their churches but retained their UUness after all? As always, surveys and studies tend to provoke as many or more questions than they answer.