Poor and less educated in the US giving up on religion – study

2011-08-23 07:08

Washington – Americans have become less observant of religion in recent decades, with the least affluent and less educated quickest to abandon faith-based practices, according to a new study.

“Our study suggests that the less educated are dropping out of the American religious sector, similarly to the way in which they have dropped out of the American labour market,” said lead researcher Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Researchers said they focused on whites because there is less variability between education and income of religiosity among blacks and Latinos.

Using US Census data, the study found that while 38% of the least educated Americans aged 25 to 44 attended church services at least once a month, in the decade between 2000 and last year, that number had fallen to just 23%.

For college-educated whites, the comparable figures were 51% attending monthly services in the 1970s and 46% from 2000 to last year – a decline, but one that is not as steep as found among Americans who have only a high school education or less.

“While we recognise that not everyone wishes to worship, and that religious diversity can be valuable, we also think that the existence of a large group of less educated Americans that is increasingly disconnected from religious institutions is troubling for our society,” said Andrew Cherlin, co-author of the study and a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University.

“This development reinforces the social marginalisation of less-educated Americans who are also increasingly disconnected from the institutions of marriage and work.” 

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