More-Educated People Do Less Volunteering for God

Data show volunteer rates at religious organizations vary greatly by education level.

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Earlier today, I reported on new figures from the Labor Department showing that Americans are volunteering less and less. But the report has plenty of other fascinating nuggets, among them the different ways people of different education levels volunteer their time.

Religious organizations were the most popular volunteering venues last year, with 33 percent of those who volunteered saying they did so at these places. However, the figures are striking when broken down by educational attainment. Nearly half of all volunteers without a high school diploma volunteered at a religious organization, a share that tapers off for each successive level of attainment.

[READ: Volunteering Hits Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years]

It should be noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have margins of error calculated for these figures, so some of the differences between groups could be statistically insignificant. But the trend does appear to parallel recent findings that higher educational attainment means lower religious participation – an April 2011 paper from University of Notre Dame economist Daniel Hungerman found evidence of that correlation. However, another 2011 study suggested that the correlation was not hard and fast, showing that white Americans without college degrees were dropping out of church more quickly than their more-educated peers.

Religious organizations were still, by a thin margin, the most popular places for people with bachelor’s degrees to volunteer for last year. However, four-year degree holders were slightly more likely than their other peers to volunteer with educational or youth groups; civic, political and professional organizations; and sport, hobby, cultural or arts organizations.