“Teenage boys from working-class families who were “regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys.”
A recent article in The New York Times cited a study that followed the lives of 3,290 teenagers and found that American men are “dropping out of college in alarming numbers.” All but one very specific group – boys from working-class families who grow up religious.
Ilana M. Horwitz, an assistant professor of Jewish studies and sociology at Tulane University and the author of God, Grades, and Graduation, found that religion offers teenagers different things depending on their social class. “Those raised by professional-class parents, for example, do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious.” But teenage boys from working-class families who were “regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys,” she found.
Ilana said religious boys are not any smarter but religious involvement can “buffer working-class Americans – males in particular – from despair.” Among working-class men, Ilana found, “fewer than one in five completes college.”
College enrollment rates over the past decade are declining, according to articles in both the Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic, a change almost entirely driven by men. Women are now much more likely to enroll in college than men, and the gender gap widened significantly in 2020.
At our own state’s flagship university, The University of Georgia, in 2020 there were 22,890 women enrolled and just 16,256 men.
And the recently released study found that among male students, those who are religious stayed in college more often than nonreligious men.
Certainly college is not the only path to success, but that research shows that putting your kids in the right group of peers does help them down the road. Church membership is good for teens. Along with connecting them with God, membership in any of our local churches can foster friendships and provide teens with opportunities to make a difference in not only their lives but also the lives of others. Being involved in church youth activities offers good life lessons, role models and support, especially during those teen years.
Many of our local churches put a lot of emphasis in their teen programs and that is an asset we hope more parents (even those who may not be believers themselves) will take advantage of for their kids.
When teen drama rears its ugly head or a girlfriend breaks their heart or they struggle with school and a job, the church youth leaders and its members can offer support.
A September 2020 Pew Research Center report found that U.S. teens take after their parents religiously. Most U.S. teens (ages 13-17) share the religious affiliation of their parents, the survey found. And on the whole, U.S. teens attend religious services about as often as their parents do: 44% of U.S. teens say they go to religious services at least once a month, almost exactly the same as the share of their parents who say they attend monthly (43%).
If you have moved to this area and for whatever reason don’t have a church home, we’d encourage you to visit our local congregations. See our church page on 2B-3B for more information.