Is Islam related to lower education levels for women? A key challenge for prior empirical research is the lack of data on educational attainment by religion at the global level. In this study, we bring together census and survey data from 151 countries to provide the first comprehensive global examination of religious differences in educational attainment by gender and birth cohort. We find Muslim women are less educated than women in most other religious groups and lag further behind their male co‐religionists. Muslim women's educational attainment is lowest in sub‐Saharan Africa, where even among the youngest cohort (women 25–34 years old) two‐thirds have no formal schooling. However, in other regions, Muslim women have generally been rapidly catching up to other groups and have narrowed gender gaps substantially in recent cohorts. Moreover, these gains have been widespread, with some of the biggest changes occurring in the Middle East and in wealthier countries. Our findings offer insight into religion's possible role in women's educational attainment and provide important context to the debate over Islam and gender equality.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.