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More education = less religion?

More education = less religion?

Freakonomics reports on a new study from Canada:

According to a new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Daniel M. Hungerman, an economist at Notre Dame who studies religion, the answer is yes. At least in his Canadian data set:

For over a century, social scientists have debated how educational attainment impacts religious belief. In this paper, I use Canadian compulsory schooling laws to identify the relationship between completed schooling and later religiosity. I find that higher levels of education lead to lower levels of religious participation later in life. An additional year of education leads to a 4-percentage-point decline in the likelihood that an individual identifies with any religious tradition; the estimates suggest that increases in schooling can explain most of the large rise in non-affiliation in Canada in recent decades.


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We looked at this at Friends of Jake a couple of years ago, using data from a Pew Forum study on the US population.

That data showed some striking differences in the education levels of different faiths. Thus, saying “religious” is too broad a term. There are many faith groups with high levels of education.

For example, Episcopalians have a very high fraction of college or post-graduate levels of education, with over than 50% falling into one of those two categories.

Roman Catholics and Evangelicals are much lower, being around 25% and 20%, respectively.

In contrast Jews and Hindus have even higher levels of educational attainment than Episcopalians. And people who describe themselves as having no faith were also around 25%.

I would be careful about extrapolating too much from Canada to the US, as Canada is far more European in its attitudes towards religion than the heavily religious US.

–Susan Forsburg

Josh Thomas

Maybe it suggests why fundamentalists are anti-intellectual.


Then there’s all of us believers who went to seminary (or beyond) messing up the curve! ;-/

JC Fisher

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