For decades, we’ve thought of women as more religious than men.
Survey results, conventional wisdom, and anecdotal glimpses across our own congregations have shown us how women care more about their faith, though researchers haven’t been able to fully untangle the underlying causes for the gender gap across religious traditions and across the globe.
Now, recent data shows the long-held trend may finally be flipping: In the United States, young women are less likely to identify with religion than young men.
The findings could have a profound impact on the future of the American church.
As recently as last year, the religion gender gap has persisted among older Americans. Survey data from October 2021 found that among those born in 1950, about a quarter of men identified as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular, compared to just 20 percent of women of the same age. That same five-point gap is evident among those born in 1960 and 1970 as well.
For millennials and Generation Z, it’s a different story. Among those born in 1980, the gap begins to narrow to about two percentage points. By 1990, the gap disappears, and with those born in 2000 or later, women are clearly more likely to be nones than men.
Among 18- to 25-year-olds, 49 percent of women are nones, compared to just 46 percent of men.
There’s also a gender gap in church attendance. This pattern has been so stark that Pew Research Center found in 2016 that Christian women around the world are on average 7 percentage points more likely than men to attend services; there are no countries where men are significantly more likely than to be religiously affiliated than women.
In the US, older men are more likely to say they never attend church services when compared to women of the same age. Among 60-year-old men, 35 percent report never attending; it’s 31 percent of women.
While the difference between men and women identifying as nones doesn’t disappear until those born in the 1990s (today’s 30-year-olds), we see the gender gap in church attendance has closed for earlier generations as well. For people born as early as 1973 (in their late 40s today), men and women are equally likely to say they never go to church. The youngest adults are less likely to report never attending services compared to those who are between 35 and 45 years old.
What demographic factors may be leading to this emerging gender difference in the religiosity of young men and women?
There’s no real difference in the share of male and female nones among Black, Asian, and other racial groups. But among Hispanic young people, men are 8 percentage points more likely to be nones than women.
It’s one thing to take a survey to find out information such as this, but who gets surveyed, and how the questions are presented, can skew the results. Perhaps the better way to get real answers would be to walk into various churches on Sundays and count the men and women. We know from various studies that infidelity has been on the rise in the US over the last century, and more women are cheating than ever before. Perhaps it is that infidelity that kept men from the church in the past, and the same is keeping women from the church now. Of course, all of these studies were self-reported, so accuracy may be suspect.
Apparently this does not apply to Democrat men since they are so willing to kill babies.