There is no group of young people in the U.S. that has a rate of religious affiliation higer than 60%.
A survey taken in 2021 has identified a shift in the religious “gender gap” in the United States, which has previously shown women to be more religious than men. The data was accumulated by Dr. Ryan Burge, a teacher and researcher from Eastern Illinois University.
In his report, published in Christianity Today, Burge notes that the traditional gap of about 5% still holds strong in the old guard. A quarter of men born in around the 1950s identify as “nones” (those identified as atheist, agnostic, or belonging to no particular religion), while this number falls to about 20% in women of the same age. This five-point gap can be similarly seen in those born in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Generation Z, however, this trend has begun to skew. Those born in the 1980s closed the gap to about 2% and by the 1990s group, the gap was no longer visible. For those born in 2000 or later the charts begin to go in the opposite direction, with 49% of women identified as “nones,” compared to men at 46%.
Burge broke down the 18-25 age group by race and found the most significant gaps in White and Hispanic communities. It was found that over half (51%) of White Gen Z women identify as “nones,” which is 9 points higher than their male counterparts. The Hispanic communities, on the other hand, are more in line with previous generations, with 48% of Hispanic men considering themselves “nones” as compared to only 40% of Hispanic women.
Black and Asian communities are experiencing similar yet smaller gaps that mirror those of White and Hispanics. Black women who responded to the survey were 2% more likely to be “nones” than Black men. Meanwhile, Asian men continue to be 3% more likely than women to consider themselves “nones.”
The study found that the group least likely to call themselves “nones” are Hispanic women, at 40%. The group that was most likely to be “nones” were Black women, at 53%. The group of “Other” races was also even at 53% for both men and women. All said and done, there was no group of young people with more than a 60% rate of religious affiliation.
The report noted that education may be an important factor to deciphering this recent trend. The survey found that women who had lower education levels were more likely to call themselves “nones.” Fifty-seven percent of women with only a high school education have eschewed religious practice, a number that drops to 46% in the group with “some college education.” The figure finally falls below men in the group with four years or more of college education, landing at 39%.
For Gen Z men, the scales are out of balance in this chart. High-school educated males are 52% more likely to be “nones,” but this number drops hard to 39% in the group with “some college education.” When Gen Z men go to college for four years or more, however, the number of “nones” rises again to 45%.
Burge’s report did not find a definitive explanation for the recent change in the religious “gender gap,” but he did warn that if Gen Z women do not begin to return to the church by their mid-life, then U.S. churches may find it hard to fill out the pews.