Who's going to church?

“My assumption going into this research was that middle America was more religious and conservative in general than more educated America,” study author Brad Wilcox told msnbc.com. “But what is surprising about this is that when it comes to religion as well as marriage, we find that the college educated are more conventional in their lifestyle than middle Americans.”

In the last four decades, monthly (or more) participation in religious services dropped from 50 percent of moderately educated (high school and perhaps some college) whites to 37 percent, according to the study, “No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life Among the White Working Class.” Attendance by the least educated (high school dropouts) dropped from 38 percent to 23 percent, by sociologists Wilcox, of the University of Virginia and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University found.

Church attendance by higher-income whites with at least a bachelor’s degree barely dipped, from 50 percent to 46 percent.