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The growth of Protestantism among U.S. Latinos has been the focus of considerable discussion among researchers. Yet few studies investigate how Latino Protestants and Latino Catholics differ, or which types of Latinos convert from Catholicism to Protestantism. Our study tests various theories about why some Latinos convert including a modified version of the semi-involuntary thesis, the national origin hypothesis, and assimilation theory. We use data from a large national sample of U.S. Latinos and find some support for assimilation theory and less for the semi-involuntary thesis. However, context matters. If we divide Latinos into national origin groups, these groups strongly predict who converts and who are lifelong Protestants. We discuss how war may influence the religious composition of early migrants and thus shape both the religious composition and conversion of later migrants.


Originally published in Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review 2017, 78:2 119–145 doi:10.1093/socrel/srx014