According to an American Sociological Association press release, the least well-educated Americans—people who have not graduated from high school—attend religious services less frequently than do the moderately educated (high school but no four-year college degree), who in turn attend less frequently than do the most educated (at least four years of college). The study, which involves whites only, showed that service attendance has fallen for all groups since the 1970s, but most precipitously for the less educated:
“In the 1970s, among those aged 25-44, 51 percent of college-educated whites attended religious services monthly or more, compared to 50 percent of moderately educated whites, and 38 percent of the least educated whites. In the 2000s, among those aged 25-44, 46 percent of college-educated whites attended monthly or more, compared to 37 percent of moderately educated whites, and 23 percent of the least educated whites.”
The study notes the disturbing implication that less educated people increasingly lack connection to the resources that religious institutions ordinarily provide, such as social networks, and also the moral teachings in support of family and middle class values. Lack of education, which the ASA study considered, of course correlates with lower income.
While these arguments have obvious force, a broader doctrinal issue is involved as well. Ruby K. Payne’s book A Framework for Understanding Poverty, describes spiritual poverty as one aspect of poverty. She observes that many people in poverty have a fatalistic account of the world.
All or nearly all monotheistic religions teach that the universe is governed by a benign ruler. People lacking this belief, I would argue, may view themselves as subject to the vagaries of a chaotic universe. The subject calls to mind a Wall Street Journal article associating poverty in Haiti with the Voodoo beliefs ingrained in the culture there.