Why not daily, or weekly or monthly … Quarterly updates are not only opportunities to introduce completely new features or fields or modules to the Database, as is often the case, but every update inherently includes the results of a further three months of research.
latest population revisions from the United Nations
World Population Prospects
01 Jul 2021
The 2019 revision of population data from the UN Population Division has been incorporated into WRD and reconciled with religious affiliation data in every country.
While the UN's 2021 revision is also now imminent, the significant demographic effects of COVID-19 are unlikely to be seen until at least the 2023 revision.
Update: The UN has pushed back the date of the next population revision from June 2021 to March 2022, with Urban prospects now not planned until 2023.
Updated to 2020
20 Jan 2020
The base year of the World Religion Database has been updated from mid-2015 to mid-2020.
This means that estimates for the number of religionists in every country of the world are now reconciled with the United Nations population projections for mid-2020. The update includes statistics on all world religions as well as Peoples and Countries preliminary data on Cities and Provinces.
Unless labelled otherwise, all data in WRD now refer to 2020.
Census data added
01 Oct 2019
This quarter sees data processed from a further 184 censuses. These include historical censuses from Sweden in 1900 and Sri Lanka in 1901 through to the Irish census of 2016 and Niger census of 2017. A full listing of the new census data is available in the query "Census data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
Jews, Bahais, Sikhs and Spiritists
01 Jul 2019
Significant updates have been made in many countries to the data on smaller religions including Jews, Bahais, Sikhs and Spiritists.
Also, changes to the official spelling of country names do not happen frequently nor lightly, but with this quarterly update the short name for the Czech Republic becomes Czechia, Macedonia becomes North Macedonia, and Tokelau Islands becomes Tokelau.
Database administrators may note that to accommodate North Macedonia's new order in the alphabet, the following country ID codes have also changed: 'mace' (Macedonia) becomes 'nmac', and 'nork' (North Korea) becomes 'nkor'. The primary keys of each country of course remain unchanged.
Why "Quarterly" Updates
01 Apr 2019
Quarterly updates are not only opportunities to introduce completely new features or fields or modules to the Database, as is often the case, but every update inherently includes the results of a further three months of research.
Changes are made almost daily to the underlying research database from the scores of sources that become available every day. But it is every three months that all these changes are freshly reconciled with each other to create the comprehensive and internally consistent picture published quarterly in the World Religion Database.
With 7 billion people growing and changing and moving every day, the population of each People group relative to others, the percentage of each religion in each People and hence in each country, the size of each denomination, and of each city and province, is constantly, and often subtly, changing.
Every day new information becomes available as to which of those subtle shifts have bubbled to the surface to become apparent and noticeable. Every day forecasts and estimates of one statistic or another are refined by researchers across the world.
The change in one statistic invariably effects others. If a denomination has turned out to be growing twice as fast as expected, it is not enough to just change that one statistic--depending on where the growth came from, other denominations or other religions will have declined, and the religious percentages of the People groups effected will also change accordingly.
A change in today's statistic may also effect estimates of past years, and will of course effect future projections.
Each quarter the picture will change because each day things are changing, but the quarterly updates should always be internally consistent and based on the latest reliable globally reconciled data.
Field research verification
01 Jan 2019
Demographic estimates of Christianity in Mongolia, India, and South Korea were strengthend in November 2018 when World Religion Database editor Todd Johnson, took a three-week trip to India, Mongolia, and South Korea to meet with scholars and church and mission leaders. Valuable feedback from the presentation of research results was received providing a further level of field verification.
01 Oct 2018
Xiongan, Chiang Rai, Wollongong, and Myrtle Beach are some of the 195 cities in 49 countries are included for the first time in the 2018 edition of the United Nations listing of cities with over 300,000 people.
They represent a combination of smaller cities growing to over 300,000 for the first time, or the boundaries of cities changing (some merging and some splitting).
As cities grow to over 1 million in population WRD will add a percentage for the largest religion and a listing of other religions in the city numbering over 1 percent.
City definitions and population source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision.
It's all about the data
05 Jul 2018
The World Religion Database is content-rich and while this quarter has also seen significant improvements to the data, it is the website redesign that will be most striking to returning users.
Technically the data still reside in SQL Server tables, but the software getting the data from the database to the user has been completely rewritten over these past several years by Breuer & Co. and its implementation now enables a host of new user features.
Adding or removing fields, and changing criteria to get the specific data required is easier with enhancements to the query-design feature, and user changes can now be saved to a common organizational workspace.
So start with example queries and the country index on the main page, or click the rocket icon Launchpad to see all the main topics at a glance, or enter a search term and go from there.
As always, help is available from researchers at email@example.com (or call +1 978-646-4335) and your feedback is most welcome.
Religions in ASEAN and NATO Countries
01 Apr 2018
The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations range from vast majorities of a single religion such as 92% Christian, 87% Buddhist or 80% Muslim, through to Singapore where the largest, Chinese folk-religionists, are just 38%. The religious makeup of ASEAN, NATO, G7 and other groups of countries are available on the "Country/Region" page.
01 Jan 2018
The Pew Research Center have released another in a series of reports on global religions, this time Orthodox Christianity. WRD's best estimates are used in the report for places where census and survey data were inadequate. See the full report at the Pew Research Center website.
World Population Prospects
01 Oct 2017
The 2017 revision of population data from the UN Population Division has been incorporated into WRD and reconciled with religious affiliation data in every country.
Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2017
01 Jul 2017
The latest edition of the Yearbook of International Religious Demography presents 2017 data from the WRD together with scholarly articles featuring religious demography in Botswana, Protestantism in Guatemala, life satisfaction in Japan, fertility rates in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the movement of Muslims from the Middle East to Europe.
Middle East minority religions
01 Apr 2017
Population estimates and future projections for minority religions in Northern Africa and Western Asia (including the Middle East), have been updated and re-reconciled with UN population data for each country.
01 Jan 2017
The default listing of WRD cities now consists of the UN's 1,785 Urban Agglomerations each with over 300,000 population in 2015. The percentage of the majority religion and a listing of religions over 1 percent are shown for capital cities and every city over 1 million. An archive of 8,537 cities (level 1) and sub-cities (level 2) in 2010 down to 50,000 population is also available.
Roman Catholicism 2015
01 Oct 2016
Roman Catholicism is one of the four major traditions of Christianity (together with the Orthodox, Protestant, and Independent traditions). The number of people affiliated with the Roman Catholic church in 2015 has been updated in each country to align with the 2016 edition of the Vatican’s Catholic Church Directory (Annuario Pontificio). The 2015 data for each major tradition will progressively change from projections to hard data as reports, year books and censuses covering 2015 become available.
01 Jul 2016
The social and health context of peoples lives in each country are given by a range of country indicators updated this quarter covering: Religious Liberty, Human Development, Literacy, Corruption, Water Access, Physicians, HIV Adults, Malaria, GDP, GNI, Internet users, and Education. Data describing the State Religion of each country has also been thoroughly revised, and a section on ethno-linguistic people groups has been added to the methodology document.
People groups and Ethnicity
01 Apr 2016
The "Peoples" table lists 13,800 ethno-linguistic people groups, each of which is allocated a primary "Ethnicity" and a primary "Language" to define them. The "Ethnicity" field (formerly labelled "Culture") has been updated this quarter with a simpler underlying code enabling a summary of 13,800 Peoples into 13 ethnic regions. See sample queries on the Peoples/Languages page, and further information in the methodology document.
Record numbers of refugees
01 Jan 2016
Record numbers of refugees and 30-year-low rates of safe return mean permanent exile for millions: WRD this quarter has downgraded estimates for Christians in several Middle East countries both for the present and for all future projections. Methodological update: a new section describes the counting of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims utilizing the WRD's listing of ethno-linguistic people groups.
World Population Prospects, 2015 Revision
01 Oct 2015
The 2015 revision of population data from the UN Population Division has been incorporated into WRD and reconciled with religious affiliation data in every country. Methodological update: a section was added describing the differences between WRD and recent Pew Research estimates of Christian projections to 2050.
Hindu major traditions
01 Jul 2015
Methodological update: added example of Hinduism in the USA and the methodology of the International Religious Demography Data Quality Index. For the first time, the Hindu religion is broken down into its major traditions with best estimates by country of the numbers of Vaishnavites, Shaivites and Saktists. See the Hindu specific queries on Religious Traditions page.
Daily Religious Change
01 Apr 2015
For example, the Global 24-hour change query shows that every day on average over the last 10 years the global Christian population increased by 79,000 people and the Muslim population increased by 78,000 people. The 24-hour change at the end of the period, in 2015, is even higher: 88,000 Christians and 84,000 Muslims. New queries on the "Religion" page report the 24-hour population change by religion in each country and region and globally.
Updated to 2015 plus documentation revision
01 Apr 2015
The base year of WRD has been moved from mid-2010 to current projections for mid-2015. Estimates for the number of religionists in every country of the world are now reconciled with the United Nations population projections for mid-2015. The update includes statistics on all world Religions as well Peoples and Countries, with preliminary data on Cities and Provinces. Also this quarter the WRD Methodology document has been revised to include material from Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim, The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography (Oxford: Wiley--Blackwell, 2013)
UN Security Council
01 Jan 2015
Membership of the UN Security Council changes each year on January 1st. The question of how the religious demography of the Security Council differs from that of the world and differs over time is addressed in this query: Security Councils over time. Some of the implications are discussed in this briefing document. The religious demography of other organizations are also available on the "Country/Region" page.
Religious Traditions page
01 Oct 2014
Religious Traditions is a new page this quarter designed to make it easier to answer questions such as "What is the breakdown of Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan" (see 'Muslim traditions' query). Currently reconciled WRD best estimates are available for Buddhists, Christians and Muslims and the page will be expanded progressively to cover other religions.
More survey and census data added
01 Jul 2014
This quarter sees data released from a further 22 censuses and 36 surveys conducted mainly in Europe and from a variety of sources. Years of study range from 1995 (a Parliamentary Election survey in Belarus) to 2010 (Register of Religious Communities in Finland). A full listing of the new survey data is available in the query "Survey data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
Additional data points and surveys
01 Jan 2014
The year 2030 is added as an extra data point, which brings to 11 the number of years in the religion over time series best estimates (1900, 1950, 1970, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2020, 2025, 2030 and 2050). In addition, data from a further 34 European Values Surveys from 2008 to 2009 have been released following analysis.
Jewish estimates update and World Population Prospects, 2012 Revision
01 Oct 2013
A thorough revision of Jewish best estimates from 1970 has been completed, coinciding with the incorporation of the 2012 revision of population data from the UN Population Division. The revision includes the split of the former Netherlands Antilles into three new countries: Curacao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands.
Asia and Oceania survey data
01 Jul 2013
This quarter releases data from a further 183 surveys conducted in Asia or Oceania. These include 68 Asiabarometer surveys, 49 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys, 18 World Values Surveys, 17 Gallup World Polls, and 17 surveys from the International Social Survey Program. Years of study range from 1991 to 2010. A full listing of new survey data is available in the query "Survey data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
American survey data
01 Apr 2013
Data released this quarter comes from a further 313 surveys conducted in the American continent including 199 Latinobarometer surveys, 53 Americasbarometer surveys, 20 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys, 20 Gallup World Polls , 12 World Values Surveys and 9 surveys from the International Social Survey Program. Years of study range from 1984 to 2010. Once again, a full listing of new survey data is available in the query "Survey data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
European survey data
01 Jan 2013
Data released this quarter comes from 301 surveys conducted in continental Europe including 83 Eurobarometer surveys, 52 International Social Survey Program surveys, 43 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys and 35 European Values Surveys. Years of study range from 1981 to 2010. A full listing of new survey data is available in the query "Survey data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
Africa survey data
01 Oct 2012
Data released this quarter comes from 94 surveys conducted in Africa including 24 Gallup World Polls, 21 Afrobarometer surveys, 19 countries in the Pew Africa study, and 13 Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys. Years of study range from 1981 to 2010 but are mainly 2006, 2008 or 2010. The full listing of new survey data is available in the query "Survey data added this quarter" on the Censuses and Surveys page.
01 Jul 2012
A new feature of the World Religion Database allows religious populations and other country data to be easily analyzed by groups of countries (for example "NATO", "Middle East", or "Post World War 2 independence states"). See the query "All country groups and organizations" and other sample queries on the "Country/Region" page . Users can also add Country memberships fields to existing queries to allow group selection in any query based on the country table.
Global Religion and Migration Database
01 Mar 2012
To better understand the religious affiliation of international migrants, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life began more than a year ago to build the Global Religion and Migration Database - a dataset representing about half a million cells of information. This data was collected from hundreds of censuses and surveys and together shed light on the origins, destinations and religious affiliations of international migrants as of 2010. The dataset is made available as part of the World Religion Database. Click the main link at left, or read more from the introduction.
01 Jan 2012
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have released another in a series of reports on global religions, this time Christianity. Much of the census and survey data analysed in the report are available in the World Religion Database, or will be within the year, together with the WRD's own best estimates which were used in the report for places where censuses and survey data alone was inadequate. See the full report at the Pew research website.
Future of the Global Muslim Population
01 Oct 2011
Data has been added from "The Future of the Global Muslim Population" report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The data includes the Muslim percentage of each country for 1990 and 2000 as well as Pew projections for 2010-2030.
1. WRD has been updated to reflect the latest population revision from the United Nations.
2. The world's provinces have been updated with many hundreds of changes to borders and hence the religious makeup.
3. Southern Sudan is added as the world's latest country, with independence from July 9th.
City religion data
01 Apr 2011
A new field "Religions Over 1 Percent" provides WRD best estimates of the major religions in 615 cities with over 1 million population plus selected smaller cities. The field shows the percentage of the major religion, then lists all the other religions which are each over 1% of the population.
01 Jan 2011
Analyzed results from a further 239 surveys and censuses have been added:
113 Country Census (wide range of years)
44 Demographic and Health Survey (mostly 2000 and 2001)
82 Pew Global Attitudes Project (2002 and 2007)
01 Oct 2010
Two measures of religious diversity are added to the World Religion Database this quarter. Firstly, simple counts of religions over certain proportions are shown by country. Secondly, a religious diversity index is calculated using the Herfindahl Index, a measure used by many economists to indicate how market competition is spread among businesses in an industry. See the queries of the most religiously diverse countries under 'Religious Pluralism' on the Top 20 lists page.
Provincial survey results
01 Jul 2010
Analyzed results from a further 124 surveys and censuses have been added:
92 Demographic and Health Surveys (1986 - 2008)
32 Censuses (from Egypt 1907 to Ethiopia 2007)
Religious Freedom and Provincial religion data
01 Apr 2010
The new Religious Freedom page adds a set of indexes of religious freedom, listed by country and by province. The indexes represent an average of data from the ARDA and the Pew Forum covering the period 2000-2007.
Also this quarter a new field "Religions Over 1 Percent" now provides WRD best estimates of the major religions in every province of the world (available for adding to any province query). This quarter also sees Hong Kong and Macau added as countries, while several smaller countries have been removed, resulting in a list of 232 countries even more closely aligned with the underlying UN population demographics.
Updated to 2010
01 Jan 2010
The base year of WRD has now moved from mid-2005 data to current projections for mid-2010. The update also includes the addition of 1950 and 2010 as a data points in the time series of religions by country. This means that estimates for the number of religionists in every country of the world are now reconciled with the United Nations population projections for mid-2010. The update includes statistics on all world religions as well as the peoples (first round of projections), cities, provinces and country tables.
01 Oct 2009
WRD has been updated to reflect the latest population revisions from the United Nations.
The number of religionists in every country are reconciled with each biennial revision of the population data produced by the United Nations population division.
Survey results added
01 Jul 2009
The World Religion Database has added analyzed results from a further 360 surveys and data sources covering many countries and years:
38 Afrobarometer Surveys (province level data)
202 World Values Surveys (country level data)
119 country-level Muslim percentages for 1988 from the Population Reference Bureau
and the 2008 "Pew Religious Landscape Survey" for the USA (province level data)
China, India, Indonesia
01 Apr 2009
Substantial data updates have been incorporated across many countries (China, India, Indonesia) this quarter from new Census and survey data. The most notable is the designation of many Indonesians from being counted as 'New religionists with Islamic influence', to being ‘Muslims with syncretistic practices'.
World Religion Database (WRD) Launch
01 Oct 2008
Data on all religions for 239 countries is available. Sources include surveys, censuses, and membership figures.
04 Jan 2008
Data has been updated to reflect the latest population revisions from the United Nations.