El Salvador

El Salvador is commonly thought of as a Catholic country, though today many surveys put the proportion of Catholics at half or less of the population. The name of the country, and of a great many of its towns, reflects that Catholic heritage, with saints’ names being especially popular. Catholicism is on display throughout El Salvador in the form of murals, bumper stickers, rosaries in cars, and crèche scenes. In Western El Salvador, a remarkable range and variety of cofradías, or lay confraternities, help define Catholic life. Each cofradía serves as custodian of a number of religious statues throughout the year, and sponsors at least one annual feast.The feasts often feature special foods and drinks, music, dancing and fireworks.

Salvadoran Catholicism can often value remembrance of martyrdom, whether in the form of traditional religious piety, or in remembrance of martyrs of the 1980s civil war, such as Archbishop Oscar Romero. A history of violence plagues the country, and El Salvador continues to struggle with one of the world's highest murder rates. Gang violence tops citizen concerns, and there is a low level of trust in other people, in government and in social institutions. As a result, the Catholic Church is the most trusted institution in El Salvador. Read more...

    Religious Affiliation
    Chart source: Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, 2010
    Total Population
    6,411,558 1
    72.00% 1
    28.00% 1
    Immigrants as % of Population
    0.7% 2
    108.64 per 100,000 people (global median 6.9) 3
    Level of Public Corruption
    95 (1=lowest, 176=highest corruption) 4
    Gender Equality in the Economy, Health, Education and Politics
    64 (1=most equal, 144=least equal) 5
    Fertility Rate
    1.91 births per adult woman 6
    Children Who Do Not Live to Age 5
    1.70% 6
    Life Expectancy at Birth
    73 years 6
    Adult Literacy Rate
    84.49% 6
    Internet Users
    30% 6
    Gross National Income per Capita
    US$3,920 6
    Population Living Below US$1.90 per Day
    3.3% 6
    • 1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision, Online Edition.
    • 2 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 revision.
    • 3 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Homicide Statistics 2015.
    • 4 Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.
    • 5 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report, 2016.
    • 6 UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2016.

    These statistics are derived from the Vatican's official publication, Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2020 (Vatican City: Librera Editrice Vaticana, 2022). The numbers may differ from data reported by other sources on this site.

    Baptized Catholics
    Baptized Catholics as % of Total Population
    Baptisms per Year (Under age 7)
    Baptisms per Year (Over age 7)
    First Communions per Year
    Confirmations per Year
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Primary Schools
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Secondary Schools
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Higher Education
    Church Marriages per Year
    Church Marriages in Which Both Spouses are Catholics
    Women Religious (Nuns & Sisters)
    Catholics per Priest
    Catholic Hospitals
    Homes for Aged, Handicapped, Invalids