Education Majors More Religious than Other College Grads

September 8, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR (b)lines) - A new study suggests the most religious steer toward college majors in education and the humanities.

However, education majors tend to become more religious over their college careers, while religion wanes for those majoring in the humanities, according to LiveScience.

“Highly religious people seem to prefer education majors, tend to stay in that major, and tend to become more religious by the time they graduate,” said study researcher Miles Kimball, an economist at the University of Michigan, in the news report.

Kimball said humanities and some social sciences tend to have a strong postmodernist focus – questioning authority – which can be at odds with religious faith and could explain the flagging importance of religion that occurred over time for these majors. As for education, Kimball said, “A lot of people in education majors are headed toward being K-12 teachers.” He added, “They’re going to be thinking about how do we educate children, and the idea of trying to teach morals and ethics and character is an obvious thing to think about as you’re trying to educate children.” Such a focus on morals could lend itself to focusing on religion as well.

While importance of religion changed for those in the humanities and social sciences, students majoring in biology and physical sciences remained just about as religious as they were when they started college, according to the news report.

Kimball’s findings, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, come from a survey of more than 26,000 individuals who graduated from high school between 1976 and 1996 and took part in the Monitoring the Future Study. Participants are interviewed in their senior year in high school and every two years or so until respondents turn 35. They indicated on a four-point scale, how often they attend religious services and how important religion is in their lives.