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Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Less Educated Americans Turning Their Backs on Religion"

This is not what I would have predicted:

Less educated Americans turning their backs on religion, EurekAlert: While religious service attendance has decreased for all white Americans since the early 1970s, the rate of decline has been more than twice as high for those without college degrees compared to those who graduated from college...
"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 labor market," said lead researcher W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.
The study focuses on whites because black and Latino religiosity is less divided by education and income. Most whites who report a religious affiliation are Catholics, evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Mormons, or Jews. ...
In the 1970s, among those aged 25-44, 51 percent of college-educated whites attended religious services monthly or more, compared to 50 percent of moderately educated whites, and 38 percent of the least educated whites. In the 2000s, among those aged 25-44, 46 percent of college-educated whites attended monthly or more, compared to 37 percent of moderately educated whites, and 23 percent of the least educated whites.
Wilcox views this disengagement among the less educated as troubling because religious institutions typically provide their members with benefits—such as improved physical and psychological health, social networks, and civic skills—that may be particularly important for the less educated, who often lack the degree of access to social networks and civic skills that the college-educated have.
"Today, the market and the state provide less financial security to the less educated than they once did, and this is particularly true for the moderately educated—those who have high school degrees, but didn't graduate from a 4-year college," Wilcox said. "Religious congregations may be one of the few institutional sectors less educated Americans can turn to for social, economic, and emotional support in the face of today's tough times, yet it appears that increasingly few of them are choosing to do so." ...
Indeed, the study points out that modern religious institutions tend to promote a family-centered morality that valorizes marriage and parenthood, and they embrace traditional middle-class virtues such as self-control, delayed gratification, and a focus on education.
Over the past 40 years, however, the moderately educated have become less likely to hold familistic beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college-educated adults. During the same period, wages have fallen and rates of unemployment have risen markedly for moderately educated men, while wages have remained stagnant for moderately educated women. For the least educated—those without high school degrees—the economic situation has been even worse, and they have also become less likely to hold familistic beliefs and less likely to get and stay married, compared to college-educated adults.
Because less educated whites are now less likely to be stably employed, to earn a decent income, to be married with children, and to hold familistic views, it makes sense that they also do not as often attend services at religious institutions that continue to uphold conventional norms, Wilcox said. ...

There's more to this, I think, it says something about how virtues are increasingly being assigned and emphasized in a way that allows people to blame others for their misfortune -- they don't have the "traditional middle-class virtues" like us, if they did they'd be fine -- but I can't quite put my finger on it.

    Posted by on Sunday, August 21, 2011 at 09:45 AM in Economics, Religion | Permalink  Comments (84)

          


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