March 22, 2016

The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World

4. Religion is equally or more important to women than men in most countries

Another measure of religious commitment is how important people say religion is to them personally. In more than half of the 84 countries where data are available on this question (46), men and women are about equally likely to say religion is very important to them.

In 36 other countries, or 43% of the total, women are more likely than men to say they regard religion as very important in their lives. In 21 of those 36 countries, however, the share of women who say religion is important to them personally exceeds the share of men who say so by 10 percentage points or more. As a result, when all 84 countries are considered together, women surpass men in reporting that religion is very important to them by an average of 5 percentage points.

Men are more likely than women to say religion is very important to them in two countries – Mozambique, where the gender difference is 4 percentage points, and Israel, where the gender difference is 5 percentage points.

Religion is equally or more important to women than men in most countries

Among Christians, data on gender differences relating to religion’s importance are available in 54 countries. In 29 of these countries, the gender gap is not statistically significant.

Among Christians, religion is more important to women than men in many countries

In 24 of the 54 countries, Christian women are more likely than their male counterparts to say religion is very important in their lives by margins ranging from 5 percentage points in Russia and the Dominican Republic to 23 percentage points in South Korea. Liberia is the only country where Christian men are more likely than Christian women to say religion is very important to them. On average, the share of Christian women who say religion is very important (68%) is 7 percentage points greater than the share of Christian men (61%) who say this.

Among Muslims, religion holds similar importance to men and women in 38 countries surveyed

Muslim men and women are about equally likely to say religion is very important to them in 38 of the 40 countries where data on this measure are available. On average, 76% of Muslim men and 76% of Muslim women say they regard religion as very important in their lives. The remaining two countries are at opposite ends of the spectrum: In Kosovo, Muslim women are 12 percentage points more likely than Muslim men to say religion is personally very important to them; in Albania, Muslim men are 8 percentage points more likely than Muslim women to consider religion very important in their lives.

Few gender differences in religion's importance for other religious groups, except among unaffiliated in U.S. and Jews

Gender gap in importance of religionOn this topic, Jews offer another illustration of differences within one faith group. In the United States, Jewish women are 8 percentage points more likely than men to say religion is very important to them. In Israel, by contrast, Jewish men are 9 percentage points more likely than women to say religion is very important to them.26

Among Buddhists, Hindus and the unaffiliated, men and women do not significantly differ on this measure of religious commitment in the limited number of countries where they were asked about it. In the United States, however, unaffiliated women are more likely than their male counterparts to regard religion as a very important part of their lives by a statistically significant margin of 3 percentage points (15% vs. 12%).27

  1. Unlike the pattern seen in prayer, the overall gender gap in the importance of religion among Israeli Jews as a group is driven not by gender differences among Orthodox Jews but instead by large gender differences among Masorti (“traditional”) Jews. See Pew Research Center’s 2016 report “Israel’s Religiously Divided Society.”
  2. Larger sample sizes provide greater precision and allow for greater confidence in the statistical significance of relatively small differences between groups. While the gender gap of 3 percentage points among the unaffiliated in the U.S. is small compared to the gender gap in Vietnam, the U.S. gap is statistically significant because of the large sample of respondents in the 2014 Religious Landscape Study (7,480 unaffiliated respondents). By contrast, the 2015 Global Attitudes survey in Vietnam had 617 unaffiliated respondents.