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You'll Never Guess Who's Leaving the Church the Fastest

06-06-2016

When you look around your church on Sunday morning, you may see more women than men in the pew, but a new study shows the gender gap is closing.

Pew Research shows the gender gap in attendance has narrowed to just 6 points. The reason? Women are leaving the church faster than men.

Since 1972 the number of women attending service once a week dropped from 36 percent to 28 percent while the number of men dropped from 26 percent to 22 percent. 

Men's attendance pattern has also become much more stable over time and they are more likely to say they attend services weekly (28 percent), a Pew Research study has found.

Pew Research's David McClendon said while there are several theories behind the change, only one factor remains the real culprit for the drop.

One theory suggests that Christian women who work attend church less often then women who don't. 

"Scholars have found that in the U.S. and other predominantly Christian countries, women working in the labor force attend religious services less often than women outside the labor force and show a smaller gender gap with men," McClendon wrote.

However, Pew Research shows that during the late 1970s and early 1980s when the workforce increased, religious service attendance also increased. Also, by the mid 1980s women's worship attendance declined for both working or non-working women.

Another theory suggests that women are becoming too well educated to attend religious services. McClendon said that has little to do with the drop.

"College-educated and less-educated women attended religious services at similar rates and both experienced declines in recent decades," he said.

One factor McClendon points to as possible reason is the increase of religious "nones," or adults with no religious affiliation. Since the 1990s, that number has more than doubled, growing from 8 percent to 21 percent in 2014.

"Although men are more likely than women to say they have no religious affiliation, the rate of growth in the unaffiliated has been slightly more rapid for women than men," McClendon wrote.

"But a more important factor in the narrowing attendance gap is found on the other side of the equation, among those adults who are affiliated with a religion," he added.

But the drop in attendance has not led to a drop in devotion for those who stay. Men are more likely to say now that they attend services weekly, while women who do stay remain devoted to serving and praying.

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