New Study: Ending Religious Education Doesn't Lead To Decline in Morals

On January 3, 2022, CESifo released a resounding preliminary paper on the social implications of withdrawing religious education from the academe. The article claimed that the “staggered termination of compulsory religious education led to more equalized gender roles, fewer marriages and children, and higher labor-market participation and earnings.”

The paper, authored by Munich-based researchers, also claimed that removing religious education in the academe “did not affect ethical and political values or non-religious school outcomes.”

CESifo, a global research network to advance economic policies using evidence-based data, was founded by Hans-Werner Sinn more than two decades ago.

The authors used data from post-war Germany where eleven states ended compulsory religious education. The reform allowed parents to choose whether to enroll their children in the same religious education classes or the recently offered Ethics class provided as an alternative.

Bavaria in southeast Germany was the first state to officially terminate mandatory religious education, while Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia followed as late as 2004. This provided the authors with the necessary data to compare adults who had taken religious education longer than most.

The paper found that the earlier termination of compulsory religious education translated to reduced private and public religiousness.

Another interesting finding showed that lesser religious education allowed adults to have an equal take on gender roles. This also translated to a significant increase in labor market participation while reducing the number of marriages and children.

The paper also discovered that removing religious education from schools did not negatively affect “reciprocity, trust, risk preference, volunteering, and life satisfaction.” “Attending the nondenominational (non-religious) subject ethics does not lead to lower levels of ethical value,” the paper added.

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