Overall, women more religious than men.
While Muslim women are as religious as Muslim men, Christian women are even more religious than their male peers, according to a new study by Pew Research Center, in Washington, DC.
Overall, women are more religious than men by several standard measures of what it means to be a religious person, says the study, but the relationship between religion and gender is more complex than commonly assumed.
The study took data from six different groups (Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated). Data on affiliation in 192 countries were collected from censuses, demographic surveys and general population surveys as part of the Center’s multiyear study projecting the size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religious groups from 2010 to 2050.
While women generally are more devout, the report finds men display higher levels of religious commitment in some countries and religious groups. In other contexts, there are few, if any, discernible gender differences on religious measures.
Measuring levels of religious commitment in widely differing societies and faiths is a tricky endeavor. Rather than use a single indicator, the new report looks at a variety of measures, including religious affiliation, frequency of worship service attendance, frequency of prayer and whether religion plays an important role in a person’s life.
On all the standard measures of religious commitment examined in the study, Christian women are more religious than Christian men. By contrast, Muslim women and Muslim men show similar levels of religiousness on all measures of commitment except frequency of attendance at worship services. Because of religious norms, Muslim men attend services at a mosque much more often than Muslim women do.
On religious affiliation, women are slightly more numerous among Buddhists (54%), Christians (53%) and Jews (52%). Women are slightly less prevalent among Hindus (49%) and adherents of traditional or folk religions (49%). Around the world, men markedly outnumber women (55% vs. 45%) among religiously unaffiliated populations, which include atheists, agnostics and people who say their religion is “nothing in particular.”
Key findings in the report include:
Women and religious affiliation: In 61 of the 192 countries where affiliation was examined, women are at least 2 percentage points more likely than men to identify with a faith group. In the other countries, women and men display roughly equal rates of religious affiliation because in many cases nearly all people of both genders identify with some religious group. There are no countries in which men are more religiously affiliated than women by 2 percentage points or more.
Religious attendance: Out of 81 countries where Pew Research Center surveys have asked about worship service attendance, women report greater levels of weekly attendance in 30 of them, most of which have Christian majorities or large Christian populations. In South Africa, Italy and Colombia, the share of women attending services at least once a week exceeds the share of men by 20 percentage points. In 28 countries – mostly places with Muslim majorities or large Muslim populations – men report greater weekly attendance than women. In Afghanistan, for example, the share of men attending services at least once a week exceeds the share of women by 84 percentage points; in Pakistan the margin is 72 points and in Bangladesh it is 66 points.
Gender gap on prayer: The difference between women and men in self-reported rates of daily prayer is the largest gender gap found in the study. Across the 84 countries for which data are available, the average share of women who say they pray daily is 8 percentage points higher than the average share of men. In Greece, the margin is as wide as 25 percentage points, in Italy 20 points. Even religiously unaffiliated women in some countries, including the United States and Uruguay, report praying daily at higher rates than unaffiliated men do.
Importance of religion: In 46 of the 84 countries for which data are available, women and men are about equally likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives. But in 36 other countries, women are more likely than men to regard religion as very important— often by notably large margins, for example in Lithuania (20%) and Poland (19%). Only in Israel and Mozambique are men more likely than women to consider religion very important to them personally.
Belief in heaven, hell and angels: Survey data from 63 countries regarding beliefs in heaven, hell and angels indicate that men and women usually display similar levels of belief in these concepts. For example, out of 63 countries, both genders are equally likely to believe in heaven in 47 countries and to believe in hell in 52 countries. But where there is a discernible gender gap, women are more likely than men to believe in these concepts. For example, women are more likely than men to say they believe in heaven in 15 countries, including Russia and Uruguay, and more likely than men to say they believe in hell in 10 countries.