Women more religious than men, especially Christian women

A woman prays during a Mass with Pope FrancisReuters

Women are more religious than men, especially Christian women, according to the latest report from Pew Research.

Many religious denominations, such as Roman Catholics and Orthodox Jews, allow only men to be clergy.

"Yet it often appears that the ranks of the faithful are dominated by women," says the report.

In the US, women are more likely to say religion is very important to them and to pray more often. The trend has become so marked that some churches are even changing their decor, music and worship styles in an attempt to attract more men.

"Christian women are more religious than Christian men. By contrast, Muslim women and Muslim men show similar levels of religiousness," says the report, noting that Muslim women tend not to go to mosque often because of religious norms.

While 83 per cent of women worldwide identify with a faith group, this falls to just under 80 per cent for men. 

In Muslim countries and Israel, men attend services more often than women. But in Christian countries, it is predominantly women. Regarding prayer, the number of women who pray daily is 8 per cent higher than men. The one exception is Israel where more men pray daily.

However, the research shows that when women work outside the home, their levels of religious commitment fall to similar levels as the men.

"It does suggest that social and cultural factors, such as religious traditions and workforce participation, play an important role in shaping the religious gender gap," says the report.

One of the biggest religious gender gaps is in the birthplace of Pope Francis, Argentina, where there is a 20-point gap between men and woman on daily prayer – 32.5 per cent of Christian men report praying daily, compared with 52.9 per cent of Christian women.

Across the 53 countries with enough Christian respondents to allow for data analysis, 53 per cent of Christian women and 46 per cent of Christian men say they attend services at least once a week. The gap between men and women is biggest in Columbia and Italy.

Regarding belief, women in most countries have similar or higher levels of belief in hell, heaven and angels than men. 

Exceptions include Lebanon, where men are more likely than women to believe in heaven and hell, and Pakistan, where men are more likely to believe in angels.