From Inside Higher Ed: The NBER and four scholars at the University of Michigan, Miles S. Kimball, Colter M. Mitchell, Arland D. Thornton and Linda C. Young-Demarco, released a study yesterday detailing the impact of religion on the selection of college majors by students as well as the impact of religiosity on the decision to go to college.
Among the findings:
The odds of going to college increase for high school students who attend religious services more frequently or who view religion as more important in their lives. The researchers speculate that there may be a "nagging theory" in which fellow churchgoers encourage the students to attend college.
Being a humanities or a social science major has a statistically significant negative effect on religiosity -- measured by either religious attendance and how important students consider the importance of religion in their lives. The impact appears to be strongest in the social sciences.
Students in education and business show an increase in religiosity over their time at college.
Majoring in the biological or physical sciences does not affect religious attendance of students, but majoring in the physical sciences does negatively relate to the way students view the importance of religion in their lives.
Religious attendance is positively associated with staying in majors in the social sciences, biological sciences and business majors. For most vocational majors, the researchers found a negative relationship between religious attendance and staying in the same major. The researchers compare this finding to their data about how students who attend services are more likely to enroll in college in the first place: "In both cases, religious attendance encourages a shift toward a higher status path."