Monday, November 12, 2012

New data on Buddhism's local prevalence

HuffPost has published this synthesis with a slideshow that details the prevalence of Buddhist adherents across a variety of major American cities, including Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
According to the way "Buddhist adherents" were measured, greater Houston ranks about mid-way down the list, with 343 Buddhist adherents per 100,000 population. 
Screengrabbed from this source
HuffPost's digest, in turn, is based on this statistical compilation, which was reportedly done nation-wide based on data gathered during the 2010 American national census.
Low resolution screengrab from that source, which advertises their extensive full statistical work as being available for a fee. 
Measurements are presented on a county-by-county basis, with greater Houston being presented thusly:

Same source, again, low resolution presentation with sensitivity toward Fair Use copyright issues

Screengrab of much the same County array as depicted in the low-resolution excerpt above, in which the following Buddhist percentages can be extracted. 
Greater Houston:
Harris County: 0.1-0.49%
Galveston County: 0.1-0.49%
Fort Bend County: 0.5-0.99%
Montgomery County: less than 0.1%
Waller County: 1.0-4.99%
San Jacinto County:  1.0-4.99%

Jefferson County: 0.1-0.49%
Newton County:  1.0-4.99%

County base map supplied by the Governor's office.
These new data can be used to augment this blog's July post titled "How many Buddhists in greater Houston?" in which it was roughly estimated that the number was perhaps around 70,000.  But if we take at face value this new study's measurement of 0.343%  for the area and factor that into the general population estimate of 6 million, we instead end up with 20,580, which is significantly lower. 

The differences may be arising in part because of the way that "adherent" is defined and measured in this study with its emphasis on "congregational participation", which is perhaps a more relevant metric for mainstream American faith groups (e.g., Christian lineages) than it is for Buddhism.  There are a great many individuals who may deem themselves to be either Buddhist or Unlabeled without declaring a specific institutional affiliation.  Other measurement sources have clearly indicated that Houston's Vietnamese contribution alone should well surpass this relatively low estimate of overall Buddhism prevalence. 

At any rate, it's good to have more reference data points, and this study also raises some new questions.  In particular, why are higher participation rates measured outside of the greater Houston urbanized core?  Specifically, in Waller, San Jacinto, and (of all places) Newton County, which is located in culturally-distinct deep East Texas.  These are intriguing questions, perhaps for future blog posts.

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