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Does college make people less religious?
New research has found that some countries around the world see their college students find faith. In the US, it's a different story. - photo by Herb Scribner
The United States has something to learn from the rest of the world about keeping the faith.

New research from sociologist Philip Schwadel of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has found in many religious countries, like the U.S., Italy and Mexico, people lose their religiosity upon attending college.

Not surprising, right? Youve likely heard that before.

But the study also found that people in one-fifth of the worlds countries like New Zealand, Sweden, Russia and South Korea who attend college are more likely to stay religious and even join a church, according to

"The results illustrate considerable cross-national differences in both the impact of higher education and the social significance of religiosity," Schwadel told "In some nations, the highly educated are less religious than other citizens, in other nations they are more religious."

To find this Schwadel reviewed survey answers of more than 46,000 people from 39 countries about peoples religious beliefs and activities, according to College proved to have a positive effect (meaning it inspired students to find religion) in nine countries, whereas 18 countries had a negative effect from college (it didnt encourage them to find faith) and 12 countries showed neither negative or positive effects from religion, according to

The study focused on mostly Christian nations. About 4 percent of those surveyed were Muslim and 2 percent were Buddhist, according to

"Although the non-Christian nations in the sample did not unduly influence the results, this may change with a more diverse sample, particularly since there are generally higher levels of religious practice and belief in majority Muslim nations," Schwadel told

The studys findings about the United States arent surprising, since its long been reported that highly educated Americans often step away from religion. Research has found that people in the U.S. with high IQs and test scores are less likely to be religious, according to Christianity Today. This is based off an analysis of 63 studies about religion and intelligence from the last 80 years, Christianity Today reported.

In the U.S., we assume that intelligent people grow up, then reject faith, Christianity Today reported. Faithful teenagers go off to secular colleges, stop attending church and become skeptics. As individuals situate themselves in this narrative, the story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This has been the story in academia for some time now.

But this common-held belief has started to change stateside. In fact, a 2014 study found that young, well-educated Americans dont shy way from religion, but rather embrace it, according to The Atlantic.

"The core finding is that the association between graduating from college and religious disaffiliation has changed drastically across generations," Schwadel, who also researched the 2014 study, told The Atlantic.

In fact, for those who were born in the 1960s, theres really no difference between the college-educated and the noncollege educated in terms of their likelihood of disaffiliating from religion, Schwadel told The Atlantic. Those who were born in the 1970s and attended college were more likely to stay religious, too, The Atlantic reported.

The reason college students have become religious may be because of their values. Schwadels 2015 research on religion in different countries showed that students who stayed religious after college often did so because they tended to be more heavily involved in organizations, which inspired them to join churches and religious groups, according to

And, as The Atlantic noted, college students are more likely to start families, marry each other and wait until after theyre married to have babies all of which are beliefs supported by religion, making it an easier decision to join a religious group.

"College-educated people are joiners," Schwadel told The Atlantic. Theyre more likely to participate in civic groups, to volunteer in their community. What were seeing is this moving into religion, too not necessarily to hold all these different kinds of beliefs, but at least to participate in a nominal sense."