the shape of leadership

Are the Educated Less Religious?

The latest research yields mixed results.

Influence Magazine on May 8, 2017

As students across the country prepare for high school and college graduations, a new report from Pew Research considers whether education affects faith and religious participation — and the findings are mixed.

Degree holders are less inclined to say they believe in God with absolute certainly (55 percent) than adults with some college education (65 percent) or no college education (66 percent). College graduates are also more likely to identify as atheist or agnostic (11 percent of college grads vs. 4 percent of respondents with no postsecondary education).

Only 15 percent of religiously unaffiliated college grads believe in God with absolute certainty.

The gap is widest among the religiously unaffiliated (the religious “nones”). Only 15 percent of religiously unaffiliated college graduates believe in God with absolute certainty, compared to 36 percent of religious “nones” with no postsecondary education.

Among Christians, there is little statistical difference between the faith commitment of college graduates and adults without degrees. In fact, evangelical college graduates in the study were slightly more likely to attend services weekly and pray daily.

Influence magazine senior editor John Davidson, who serves on the AG Alliance for Higher Education, says this study is a reminder that college students need resources and mentors to guide them in their faith journeys.

“The college years are a formative time, for 18- to 22-year-olds especially,” Davidson says. “As the latest Pew data suggests, this time can also impact a student’s faith positively or negatively. That’s why choosing the right college is so important. Students who attend a solidly Christian school, and we have many in the AG, actually leave strengthened in their faith. I’m also thankful for the AG’s Chi Alpha ministry, which serves to create spiritually supportive environments on public and private school campuses all over the country.”

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