Study Claims Number of Nuns in the US has Decreased by Over 130,000 since 1966

Amanda Casanova | Contributor | Friday, October 17, 2014

Study Claims Number of Nuns in the US has Decreased by Over 130,000 since 1966

The number of Catholic sisters has fallen in the last half century, according to a new study.

In 1966, there were 181,421 nuns in the United States. In 2014, there are just 49,883 nuns, representing a 72 percent decrease, according to the study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

However, the study also found that smaller, newer institutes are growing, and larger, older institutes are “losing many older members who entered religious life decades ago.”

The largest religious institute of women in the US is the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, which this year has almost 3,400 members. In 1970, the institute had 13,000 members.

The CARA researchers say a high concentration of elderly sisters makes up nearly all institutes of women religious in the US and is "perhaps the single greatest challenge to attracting new vocations.”

The study also found that the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan is growing. The community started in 1973 with nine members. By the end of the decade, the institute will have about 100. 

"Whatever these institutes have done or are doing is unlikely to offset losses in the tens of thousands elsewhere. It is simply not enough," the study says.

Publication date: October 17, 2014

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.