Young & Catholic

At 1.0 percent annually population growth is clearly below Latin American averages: Women had an average of 1.45 children in 2012; in 1982, that figure stood at 2.6. The population is very young: 22% Chileans are younger than 14 years old, and only 14% are older than 60. However, there is an aging trend caused by an increase in birth control and rising life expectancy (78 years).

Three quarters of the population claim they are Catholics, which is not to be confused with being a "practicing" Catholic. The Vatican cannot only boast many adherents in this former Spanish colony, but it also regards Chile as something of a last defense. The Catholic Church uses its unflagging influence in politics and society to encourage moral crusades against abortion, contraception, and divorce. On the other hand, Catholic congregations provide valuable social services, and during the military dictatorship, bishops and clergy had the courage to push for human rights.

In recent years, fundamentalist churches from the USA, as well as baptists and methodists, have gained ground in Chile. New Age groups have been building on the widespread belief in miracles, while protestants play only a very minor role. The few Lutheran churches were mostly founded by German immigrants.