Missing Christians

According to the Censuses, the number of Australians identifying with a Christian denomination increased from 12.76 million to 13.15 million between 2001 and 2011. Over that period, 766,758 migrants had arrived in Australia who identified with a Christian denomination in that same decade. With these migrants, there should be at least 13.5 million Christians in Australia instead of 13.15 million.
Indeed, we can go further that that. The Census also tells us that 1,390,104 children were born over the decade from 2001 and 2011 who were identified with a Christian denomination in the 2011 Census. Adding the children born and the migrants to the 2001 Christian population gives us almost 15 million people – 1.8 million more than the 13.15 million the Census counted in 2011.
We estimate that, of the 1.8 million people ‘missing’, it is likely that close to 1 million have died. We also estimate that at least 200,000 were overseas at the time of the Census – either having emigrated out of Australia, or on holiday. However, there remain between 500,000 and 600,000 people missing. Further analysis shows that most of these people were aged between 10 and 34.
We estimate that 525,000 people who identified with a Christian denomination in 2001 ticked the ‘no religion’ box on the Census in 2011. The growth in the number of Christians in Australia is occurring largely because of migration. It is masking the significant outflow of Australians to ‘no religion’.
For the details of this analysis, see Pointers Vol.23, no.1 (March 2013).

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