It has long been accepted wisdom that less-educated, working-class white Americans are the nation’s most faithful churchgoers. However, a study released Sunday at the American Sociological Association’s annual convention dispels that widely-held perception.
Over the past four decades, monthly church attendance by moderately educated whites – defined as those with high school diplomas and maybe some college – has declined to 37 percent from 50 percent, according to the study co-authored by sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University.
Church attendance by the least educated whites – defined as those lacking high school diplomas – fell to 23 percent from 38 percent.
The data was culled from the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey and the National Center of Health Statistics’ Survey of Family Growth. The just-released study focused on white Americans, the authors explained, because attendance of religious services among such minority groups as blacks and Latinos is less likely to be linked to education and income.
What particularly surprised the authors is that church attendance actually is more frequent among more educated whites than those with less education. Their research found that 46 percent of the college-educated attended church at least once a month in the 2000s, which is only slightly less than the 51 percent four decades ago.
“My assumption going into this research was that Middle America was more religious and conservative than more educated America,” said Wilcox, in an interview with MSNBC. “But what is surprising about this is that, when it comes to religion as well as marriage, we find that the college-educated are more conventional in their lifestyle than Middle Americans.” To read more, click here.
Who is going to church? Not who you think, study finds
Church Attendance Falling Among Less-Educated Whites: Study