When I think of the typical churchgoer, the image that comes to mind is an older woman, though perhaps in the megachurches this stereotype may not hold. Such people have been the mainstay of traditional churches as younger and male parishioners fall away. So it should be of some concern to churches that women too are now drifting away in larger numbers.
A new Pew Research Center analysis of General Social Survey data confirms a long-simmering trend in U.S. religious observance: While attendance at religious services has declined for all Americans, it has declined more among women then men.
In the early 1970s, 36 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported attending church services weekly, a ten-point gap that reflected the long-standing trend of women being more religiously committed than men.
The gap reached its widest point in 1982, when it hit 13 percent, but then it began to shrink. By 2012, 22 percent of men reported attending church weekly, as did 28 percent of women, reflecting a “worship gap” of only six percent, an historic low.
Catholic women form the single largest group of people exiting from religion and into the ‘nones’ category.
Many reasons can be postulated for this recent increase in the departure of women from religious institutions, though it is not clear which is the dominant one. Suggested reasons include the increased role of women in the workplace and more education but Patricia Miller, the author of the above piece, thinks it is the strong religious opposition to abortion rights and contraception that is the driving force.