Accounting for the uncounted: Computing correctives for the 2000 RCMS data

Document Type


Publication Date





The 2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study (RCMS) provides the most complete enumeration of religious congregations and their members by counties. Yet, this invaluable data collection suffers from two serious limitations. First, many denominations and religious groups did not participate in the study, resulting in serious undercounts of the total membership. Second, the undercounts are closely related to race and ethnicity. These two limitations distort both the descriptive and inferential statistics calculated from the RCMS data. This research computes two correctives for the RCMS study. The first provides a more accurate estimate for the national church adherence rate by counting the uncounted. The second corrective improves adherence rates for counties, states, and urban areas by adjusting for the racial and ethnic groups undercounted. After accounting for the uncounted, we estimate that the national adherence rate is 63 percent rather than the 50 percent estimated by using the RCMS data alone.