The data comes from a series of studies dating back to 1998, which analyzed data from the National Congregations Study.
In all four of the analyses, a congregation is considered multiracial if less than 80% of the congregation is of one race. In the 1998 study, only 6% of American churches were considered multiracial. The latest analysis, which draws on data from 2018 to 2019, shows that 16% of American churches are now multiracial. The data comes from 1,262 churches.
"The racial history of the U.S. has been a troubled one," said Professor Kevin Dougherty, lead author of the latest study. "Even in current times, the flames have burned bright on racial hostility. If there are settings in our country where racial groups are coming together, that's something important to our society."
All-white churches are significantly less prevalent now than they were 20 years ago, the study shows. Just 15% of American churches have fully white congregations, compared to 38% two decades ago.
Catholic churches have the largest proportion of multiracial congregations, at 23%, while evangelical Protestant churches are close behind at 22%. Among Pentacostal churches, 16% are multiracial. Ten percent of mainline Protestant and less than 1% of black Protestant congregations are multiracial.
Dougherty noted that much remains unknown about multiracial congregations.
"Is the diversity resulting in relationships? Are they forming meaningful bonds?" he asked. "We don't know."