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Educated Christians and Church Attendance

Educated Christians and Church Attendance

From The Atlantic

While Americans with college experience are overall less likely to attend services, pray on a regular basis, and say religion is very important to them, that’s not true within many faith groups. In fact, Catholic, Mormon, and Protestant college grads are all more likely to attend church on a weekly basis than their less educated peers. This was not the trend among religious minorities like Muslims and Jews, or among people who don’t affiliate with any religion at all, suggesting that education has a distinctive effect on religiosity within the world of Christianity.

Educational differences had a much bigger effect on religious practice. Sixty-eight percent of college-educated evangelical Protestants go to church every week, compared to 55 percent of those who only went to high school. In fact, college grads show up in the church pews more often in nearly every kind of Christian tradition: Among mainline Protestants, weekly attendance was 36 to 31 percent, more educated to less; among black Protestants, 59 to 52 percent; and among Catholics, 45 to 39 percent. The effect was perhaps greatest among Mormons: 85 percent of Mormon college graduates go to church at least once a week, compared to 66 percent of their peers with a high-school education or less.

Among Christians, the pattern of educated people being more involved in their religious communities makes sense. As I’ve written before, communal involvement of all kinds is increasingly becoming a luxury good of sorts, with higher levels of income and education making people more likely to participate in activities like church, book club, parent-teacher association, and more. It could be that high-school-educated Christians feel less able to find and connect with a religious community in a broader context of financial strain, family stress, and geographic isolation. Or it could be that college-educated Christians put more of a premium on connecting with their brothers and sisters in the church.

Read it all here.


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Paul Woodrum

Being a member of a mainline church does not come cheaply — pledges, tithes, special offerings, parish fairs, special events, altar flowers, etc. — and I have a premonition this keeps a lot of economically lower middle and lower class people away. This may be one reason church attendance has declined as middle class income has remained static since Reagan gave us trickle-down economics. Now we’re in for another big dose of most national income flowing to the top 10%. Watch the pews get emptier and emptier.

Chris Harwood

I’d probably say it’s more likely college educated people have 9-5 jobs and get weekends off. In our retail society and weekend sports for the kids, even management, pharmacists, and other educated people can’t get to church on Sundays. Unfortunately, the “country club church” atmosphere does drive others away, depending on the church.

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