Quantcast
Home » News
Home » News

Losing religion at college? Not anymore, says study

Published August 7, 2014 4:54 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You don't need a doctorate to think higher education leads people away from organized religion. That's been common wisdom for decades.

Now, a sociologist's new generational study upends that thinking.

Today, it's the least-educated members of Generation X — people born roughly between 1965 and 1980 — who are "most likely to leave religion," said Philip Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.



Millennials — Americans roughly between ages 18 and 30 — were not included in the study because, Schwadel said, it's too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity.

Schwadel, whose study is published in the August edition of the journal Social Forces, found a clear historical shift.

"Americans born in the late 1920s and '30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn't graduate from college," he said. The postwar baby boomers proved to be "the last holdout of the church dropouts." For boomers, "a college degree was still associated with a higher likelihood of leaving religion."

However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there's no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Now, for America's middle-aged adults who were born in the 1970s, "those without a college education are the most likely to drop out."

In other words, a college degree used to mean people were more likely to lose religion. Now, some people are losing religion whether they went to college or not but it's especially true for those who didn't go to college.

Although the study does not examine the reasons for this shift, Schwadel observed:

• You can find God on the quad. Campus life has also changed and now offers "a lot of room and opportunity for religious connection. The social networks are wider."

• College is more widely accessible, no longer a bastion of the cultural elite. What's more, cultural trends that started with the elite — including quitting organized religion — have become more widespread. "Secularization has lost its elitism — moving across all social classes."

• Churches have changed, too. As more college-educated people affiliate with churches, those without degrees can feel uncomfortable. "I know from my other research that people want to go to church with people like themselves."

 

 

 

USER COMMENTS
Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus