World Christian Database

Institution

The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the World Christian Encyclopedia (Barrett, Kurian and Johnson 2001) and World Christian Trends (Barrett and Johnson 2001), first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. The database, which is an initiative of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, contains data on all major world religions and detailed information about Christian denominations. The data were initially collected to be used by religious leaders and others involved in Christian missionary efforts (Grim and Finke 2006: 4; Hsu et al. 2007: 4), but they are also widely used by journalists and scholars (e.g., Grim and Finke 2007; Warf and Vincent 2007). The database is currently published by Brill, an international academic publisher.

Database

World Christian Database

World Christian Database

Website

World Christian Database

Format

Not examined

Timespan

1900, 1970, 2000, 2005, 2010 (projections: 2025, 2050)

Coverage

239 countries/territories

Last reviewed

24/11/11

Data types and sources

Mainly demographic data on religious groups and denominations, based on a variety of sources: statistical questionnaires returned by churches and other organisations, field surveys and interviews, various published and unpublished documents, and national censuses.

Topics

The database provides comprehensive statistical information on world religions, Christian denominations, and people groups.

Geographical coverage

Data are available on 9,000 Christian denominations, 13,000 ethnolinguistic peoples, as well as data on 5,000 cities, 3,000 provinces and 239 countries.

Time coverage and updates

Years covered (religious composition data): 1900, 1970, 2000, 2005, 2010; projections for, 2025 and 2050. Updated continuously.

Documentation

Not examined, but see McClymond (2002) for a review of the World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, and Hsu et al. (2007) for an assessment of the reliability of the data on the religious composition of countries in the World Christian Database.

Access conditions and cost

Subscription required. The unlimited site license costs €1.750/$2.100 (annual subscription). A free 30-day trial period is available (institutions only). Some of the variables (i.e., estimates of adherents to the main world religions in various countries) are included in a dataset compiled by Grim and Finke (2006), available free of charge from the ARDA website.

Access procedures

Subscription/log-in.

Data formats

Online database.

Comparability and data quality

Questions have been raised about the potential bias inherent in the WCD, as it was originally developed as a Christian missionary tool (Hsu et al. 2007: 4).McClymond (2002: 888) notes that while the articles in the World Christian Encyclopedia are generally neutral, some passages have an anti-catholic and pro-Protestant orientation. The description of non-Christian religions is also prejudiced in some cases (ibid.). Nonetheless, Hsu et al. (2007) find that the data on the religious composition of countries in the database are highly correlated with other sources.

Electronic resource

ARDA (Association of Religion Data Archives)

Literature

Barrett, David B., and Todd M. Johnson. 2001. World Christian Trends: AD30-AD 2000. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

Barrett, David B., George T. Kurian and Todd M. Johnson. 2001. World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Grim, Brian J., and Roger Finke. 2006. “International religion indexes: government regulation, government favoritism, and social regulation of religion”. Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 2 (1): 1-40. Download dataset

Grim, Brian J., and Roger Finke. 2007. “Religious persecution in cross-national context: clashing civilizations or regulated religious economies?” American Sociological Review 72 (August): 633-658.

Hsu, Becky, Amy Reynolds, Conrad Hackett and James Gibbon. 2007. “Estimating the religious composition of all nations: an empirical assessment”. Princeton University. [Unpublished manuscript, on file with the authors. Cited with permission. 2008 version: Journal for the Scientific Study og Religion, Dec 2008]

McClymond, Michael J. 2002. “Making sense of the census, or, what 1.999.563.838 Christians might mean for the study of religion”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 70 (December): 875-890.

Warf, Barney, and Peter Vincent. 2007. “Religious diversity across the globe: a geographic exploration”. Social and Cultural Geography 8 (August): 597-613.