Educational Attainment in the United States by Sex and Religious Tradition

Julene Cooney , Syracuse University

Since the 1980s, women have outpaced men in post-secondary educational attainment in the United States. The resulting reversal of the gender gap—which had historically favored men—is generally treated as a “social fact.” However, the gap may differ in informative ways across social contexts. This study asks: How does religious affiliation influence the gender gap in education? Using nationally representative data on adults age 25+ from the Pew Research Center 2014 Religious Landscape Study, I estimate OLS regression models to assess the education gap between women and men across cohorts and 15 religions. The gap has been closing within traditionally patriarchal religions, but at slower pace than the national level. Mormonism is a notable exception, with men continuing to outpace women in educational attainment. Results underscore the important yet underappreciated ways that religion shapes the education gap, and caution against inferring that the national gap applies across social contexts.


 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality