The education gap between Hindus in India and the West
Hindus are among the least educated of the world’s major religious groups when looked at globally, but this is not true of Hindus everywhere, especially those who are living in economically advanced nations, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of religion and education.
Hindus ages 25 and older in India have an average of 5.5 years of formal schooling, while Hindus in Bangladesh (4.6 years) and Nepal (3.9 years) have even less education. These South Asian countries are all developing nations that have struggled to raise educational standards in the face of widespread poverty.
Nearly all (98%) of the world’s Hindu adults live in these three countries, which explains why patterns among Hindus in South Asia align very closely with patterns among Hindus overall. Worldwide, Hindu adults average 5.6 years of education, compared to a global average of 7.7 years for all adults. Hindus rank significantly behind Jews, Christians, religiously unaffiliated people and Buddhists.
But Hindus in Europe, North America and elsewhere are very highly educated – and, in many cases, even more so than members of other religious groups within those countries. In fact, Hindus are more educated than non-Hindus by an average of at least half a year of schooling in 70% of countries with data on both Hindus and non-Hindus (27 countries).
In the U.S., for instance, Hindu adults have an average of 15.7 years of formal schooling, and 96% of Hindu adults have post-secondary degrees. Both of these measures of educational attainment are considerably higher for Hindus than for all other Americans, who average 12.8 years of schooling. About four-in-ten non-Hindu U.S. adults have college degrees (39%).
Similar patterns are seen in places such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Hindus in the UK average 13.9 years of schooling, while all other British adults have an average of 12.2 years of education. In some of these countries, selective immigration policies that favor the most highly skilled applicants may account for some of the high educational attainment among Hindus.
In all of these countries, however, Hindus make up relatively small religious minorities, which is why they do little to raise the overall attainment of Hindus on a global level.
Michael Lipka is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.