CBS Local — As the demographics of the United States continues to change, a large religious and ethnic combination is no longer representing the majority of the country. According to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the number of white Christians now makes up less than half of America’s population.

The institute says only 43 percent of the 101,000 people surveyed identified themselves as both white and Christian. Less than 50 years ago, that number was reportedly closer to 80 percent of Americans. The new demographics show an even more drastic shift in California, where only 24 percent of respondents answered as white Christians.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, “As recently as 1996, white Christians still made up nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the public. By 2006, that number dropped to 54 percent, but white Christians still constituted a majority.”

The growth of other religious groups in the country as well as a shift in where foreign-borne residents are coming from has contributed largely to the change.

“A great deal of the growth in the Catholic Church locally and nationally has been driven by Latinos, who are now the largest ethnic group in California,” said Bishop Jaime Soto, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee.

The study noted that Christians still make up the large majority of the United States, with nearly 70 percent identifying as Christian. The findings also showed a growing number of people who no longer identify with any religious groups.

“The unprecedented growth of the religiously unaffiliated has made this group much more complex,” said PRRI research director Dan Cox. One in four people surveyed did not choose a religion to identify themselves with.

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