Baha’i Population Data for the United States

In a recent discussion we looked at the question of growth in Baha’i communities. While it may be relatively easy to calculate the size and growth rate of an individual Baha’i community from the regular annual reports which show new enrollments, resignations, and deaths, coming up with an accurate aggregate national number is not so easy.

I know of no National Spiritual Assembly which shares this information in their annual reports. An alternative source is the government census data, as Steve pointed out in the comments section of that previous article.

In the US unfortunately we do not have access to census data because Public Law 94-521 prevents the US Census Bureau from collecting such information. So we must rely on third party or academic sources.

One such source is the Religious Congregations & Membership Study. The 2010 results of this study are shown below:

From it we can learn a few interesting facts: Most Baha’i communities are located in large cities or metropolitan areas. There is an almost complete penetration of US geographically with very few counties without a Baha’i presence. The West and East coast has high concentrations of Baha’is with central US states having less concentration. And for the most part there has been no major decadal change in Baha’i US population, with new declarants balancing losses.

South Carolina along with Arizona and New Mexico seem to be ‘hotspots’. Another source confirms South Carolina as the state with the highest per capita Baha’i population:

bahai rates of adherence 2000

From the Association of Religious Data Archives

The data is a bit dated being from 2000 but it shows 17,586 Baha’is in South Carolina representing 0.438% of the state’s population. New Mexico is second with 2,665 and representing a relative 0.147% of that state’s population.

If you know of a more accurate source, please let us know in the comments below.

  • Sweetie

    something interesting — India has on a per capita basis more Bahais than the United states.interesting huh? (but most American Bahais are second generation from my understanding) 

  • Baquia

    yes, based on “sort-of” official numbers India has 1.2 Indian Baha’is for every 1000 Indians and the US has 0.55 US Baha’is for every US citizen, however, the Indian numbers are not accurate. We don’t know the exact margin of error but if we use an objective comparison, say by taking the number of Baha’is in the Indian census data, then they may well be off by a very large factor.

  • Dang, Baquia, I thought you were a Canada-ian! I guess I just haven’t
    been paying attention. Anyway, thanks for the interesting info. Though I
    have lived in SC four different times in my life and I’m not surprised
    that it’s the most “Baha’i” state, I’m mildly surprised to see that the
    median (state-to-state) Baha’i density in the southeast US appears to be
    as low as any region in the US. My childhood wanderings were premised on
    the principle that the “spiritual” people were mostly in the south, but
    looking at this data it seems more that the concentration of Baha’is in
    South Carolina (and adjacent states) might be as much a matter of Baha’i
    campaigning as any intrinsic “receptiveness” of the population. Note also the relatively high density of Baha’is in South Dakota (read “the Rez”—see attached image), where I campaigned *twice* in the 1980s. Not
    that I think what was done in South Carolina and the Rez could be done anywhere in God’s Country, but does this data show unfulfilled “growth potential” in
    other parts of the Deep South and the Deep Rez, say, for instance, the Gulf states?


    Countries with the greatest proportion of Bah??’?s (as of 2000):
    Nauru 9.22%
    Tonga 6.09%
    Tuvalu 5.86%
    Kiribati 4.70%
    Tokelau 4.33%
    Cocos (Keeling) Islands 3.72%
    Bolivia 3.25%
    Falkland Islands 2.98%
    Vanuatu 2.78%
    Belize 2.73%
    Samoa 2.37%
    Guyana 2.09%
    S?o Tom? and Pr?ncipe 1.88%
    Mauritius 1.84%
    Zambia 1.70%
    Dominica 1.61%
    Federated States of Micronesia 1.61%
    Niue 1.53%
    Marshall Islands 1.50%
    Sources: Year 2000 Estimated Baha’i statistics from: David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2000; Total population statistics, mid-2000 from Population Reference Bureau [2] and The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004.

    Largest Bah??’? populations (as of 2005):[123]
    India 1,823,631
    United States 456,767
    Kenya 368,095
    Congo DR 252,159
    Philippines 247,499
    Zambia 224,763
    South Africa 213,651
    Iran 212,272
    Bolivia 206,029
    Tanzania 163,772
    Venezuela 155,907
    Chad 84,276
    Pakistan 79,461
    Myanmar 78,967
    Uganda 78,541
    Malaysia 71,203
    Colombia 68,441
    Thailand 58,208
    “Most Baha’i Nations (2005)”. QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04

  • H-Bahai

    The following link is to a spreadsheet from data derived from the National Baha’i Office in Wilmette, IL showing the population of Baha’is in the 99 most populated cities in the United States.
    Documents on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha’i Movements
    Voume 10 (2006)

    “Baha’i Population Statistics for the Ninty-ninth Largest Cities in America, 2006”.
    Data from the Membership Office of the U.S. Baha’i Center, Evanston, IL. Documents on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha’i Movements, Vol. 10, no. 2, (December, 2006)

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