A new study from the Pew Research Center has found that 83.4 percent of women worldwide identify with a faith group, compared to 79.9 percent of men. Pew’s report, The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World, notes that women’s apparent greater religiosity comes despite history’s most influential religious leaders having been men, and many religious groups not allowing women to officiate at all, or at least until recently.
The study found women made up more than half of those identifying as Christians, Jews, and Buddhists. Women were also more likely than men to pray at least once a day across almost all faiths, according to surveys carried out in 84 countries. The biggest gender divide came amongst the religiously unaffiliated, who were 55 percent men and 45 percent women.
Compared to other economically advanced countries, the U.S. showed an exceptionally high level of religious commitment: 64 percent of women, and 47 percent of men, said they pray daily. By comparison, in France, only 15 percent of women and 9 percent of men reported that they pray each day. The U.S. also has the biggest gender divide amongst those who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated, with 68 percent of men and 32 percent of women viewing themselves that way.
Interestingly, Christianity draws more attendance among women to religious services than other religions do worldwide, the study found. “Among Christians, women attend religious services more often, but among Muslims and Orthodox Jews, men attend more often,” Pew reported in the study. Geographically, the participation rates of men and women is largely dictated by which countries are heavily Christian and which are heavily Muslim. Nations that have a Christian majority also have women who report greater attendance at church services, and in nations where Muslims are the majority, men report greater participation in religious services. “Higher levels of weekly attendance among Muslim and Jewish men are due in large part to religious norms that prioritize men’s participation in worship services,” Pew said in the report.
Pew’s report suggested a range of explanations for the religious gender gap, including biology, culture, and a lack of “existential security” felt by many women, due to their being more impacted than men by poverty, illness, old age, and violence.
And in what aspect of religion are men’s and women’s outlooks about equal? When it comes to belief in heaven and hell, the report says. Out of respondents in 63 countries that Pew surveyed on the topic, results showed that both genders are equally likely to believe in heaven in 47 countries and to believe in hell in 52 countries.
Read the findings of the complete study at Pew Research Center.