Contrary to conventional wisdom, Christians in the US who are highly educated are more likely to go to church and practise their faith, according to new research by the Pew Research Center.
It is widely assumed that higher levels of learning result in less faith, but among evangelicals, more education correlates with a higher religious commitment in every area asked about by Pew researchers.
Evangelicals who graduated from college are more likely than those who did not enrol to attend religious services at least weekly (68 per cent to 55 per cent), to pray daily (83 per cent to 77 per cent), and to believe in God with absolute certainty (90 per cent to 87 per cent). They're also more likely to say religion is very important to them (81 per cent to 79 per cent).
Evangelicals who secured a graduate degree after college are the most committed to their faith, according to the research, while those who dropped out of high school are the least committed.
Some 55 per cent of evangelicals who did not finish high school now attend church at least once a week, and among evangelicals with a postgraduate degree, the figure is 70 per cent.
Evangelicals with a graduate degree are also more likely to pray every day (83 per cent to 77 per cent), to believe with absolute certainty in God (90 per cent to 81 per cent), and to say religion is important in their lives (84 per cent to 82 per cent).
On Pew's religious commitment index, 87 per cent of postgraduates scored 'high,' compared to 81 per cent of those who did not graduate from high school.
Broken down by denomination the figures show that mainline Protestants who have graduated from college are more likely to attend church once a week (36 per cent to 31 per cent with a high school diploma or less), but are behind their less-educated counterparts in all other categories.
Similarly, Catholics with a college degree are more likely to attend mass at least weekly (45 per cent to 39 per cent of those who did not continue their education past high school), but fall slightly behind in other categories.
Catholics with graduate degrees are the most likely to attend mass at least weekly (50 per cent).
The figures reiterate that the majority of American adults (71 per cent) identify as Christians.
Pew does not on this occasion offer an explanation for its figures. 'This analysis does not attempt to explain why, for example, Americans with more education are less likely to express belief in God,' the researchers say. 'Nor does it try to explain why college-educated Christians appear to go to church more often than less-educated Christians.'