Latino Immigrants Help Keep Catholic Church Dominant U.S. Religion
Latinos Bolster Growth
March 16, 2010
New arrivals from Spanish-speaking countries have helped the Catholic Church maintain its status as the dominant religion in the U.S., according to a new Trinity College report slated to be released today.
In fact, the report said, without the influx of 9 million Latino Catholics from 1990 to 2008, the denomination would have lost ground.
But the influx of immigrants masks another trend documented by the study: The longer Latinos live in the U.S., the less likely they are to identify themselves as Catholic.
"As they spend more time in the United States, they have so many other options,'' said Ariela Keysar, a Trinity demographer who worked on the report with sociologist Barry A. Kosmin and Juhem Navarro-Rivera, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut.
"They are able to pick and choose from faiths that are different than the one they grew up with,'' Keysar said.
Sometimes, the religion of choice is none at all. The number of Latinos who identify with no religion grew from 6 percent of the Latino population in 1990 to 12 percent in 2008.
That doesn't surprise the Rev. Jose Mercado, pastor at St. Augustine Church in Hartford and director of the Hartford Archdiocese's Office of Hispanic Evangelization.
"People get more secularized and they lose the sense of the religious," Mercado said. "Other things take the place of God -- careers, money ... that's a big factor not only within the Hispanic community but among Catholics as a whole."
When Mercado visits Puerto Rico, where his parents were born, he is struck by how much of a community's life orbits around the church. "It's the social center, the religious center,'' he said. "In the United States, faith is not that visible.''
The archdiocese has taken a number of steps to fend off the trend toward secularization, Mercado said. Those measures include organizing spiritual programs, hosting retreats for Latino parents, and celebrating traditional feast days.
The Trinity report also noted an uptick in the Latino populations of various Protestant sects, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The report, "U.S. Latino Religious Identification 1990-2008: Growth, Diversity and Transformation,'' is based on data collected for the landmark American Religious Identification Survey 2008.
The full report can be downloaded at www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/latinos2008.pdf. eone came up with a cast that you could get at the pharmacy, but that was $3,000," Stover said.
State laws adding to the overall costs of health insurance, Stover said, could give companies more incentive to self-insure, exempting them from those laws.
In a report completed last year for the drug maker GlaxoSmithKline, which makes oral chemotherapy drugs, the actuarial firm Milliman Inc. estimated that treating oral and intravenous chemotherapy drugs equally in health insurance plans would add less than 50 cents to the monthly cost of each member in most plans, although because of the wide range of plan designs, it could add $1 per member or more to some plans. The report estimated that only about 1.5 percent of people with commercial health insurance file claims for cancer in a given year, and only about a quarter of cancer patients receive any kind of chemotherapy.
But Stover also raised concerns about the precedent that such a move could send, potentially leading to other items now covered as pharmacy benefits to be moved into medical benefits, which he said could have a significant effect on the overall cost of health insurance.
Green has missed doses of her medications, sometimes because, she said, problems with insurance coverage delay her prescriptions from getting filled. On her last cycle of one of the medications, the pills arrived four days late.
"In the big picture, it's probably not that big a deal," she said. "Psychologically, it's huge. I'm like a fanatic about it, because it's my life."
Sometimes, Green feels guilty for how much money goes to her medical costs instead of to savings for her children -- now 15 and 11 -- to go to college. She feels conflicted as she speaks out.
"I'm just so grateful to, number one, to have these drugs, period. I'm grateful to have insurance, period," she said. "It just seems so kind of backward that it would be more difficult for the pills to come to my door than it was to make a trip to the hospital."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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