My thanks to David W. Scott for mentioning my blog in his UM Insight post. Dr. Scott was interested in my sources. The figures for the middle class as a percent of the US population comes from a report by the Council of Economic Advisers. Information about that report can be found at this link. The figures for the UMC as a percent of the US population comes from the UMC General Commission of Archives and History. That information can be found at this link.
The red area represents the change in the percent of the US population that is middle class and the blue area represents the change in the percent of the US population that is United Methodist.
The rate of decline evident in this chart seemed very similar, so next I created the correlation charts--
To really see the correlation such charts need lines connecting the dots, so I created the next chart using Excel--
There is a strong correlation between these five data sets, and while this is not proof of causation, it does indicate that further research would be prudent. So, all you UM statisticians out there, here’s the data that church leaders require:
1) Rates of decline and increase for the middle class for 1784-2010.
2) Rates for the middle class and UMC membership by Region, State, County, City.
3) Population density.
All of this data crunching and ruminating was prompted by an AP article reporting on the 4 out of 5 American adults who will experience economic insecurity at some point during the course of their lives. Methodist histories by Henry Rack, David Hempton, and Dee Andrews first introduced me to the data regarding the high percent of early Methodists who were part of the Industrial Revolution’s emerging middle class. I’ve wondering about the current correlation between the two ever since and finally had access to data that let me test my hypothesis that the decline in UMC membership was connected to the decline in the numbers of middle class Americans.