Hindus beat every other religious group in educational attainment in the US — and by a wide margin — but came last, at the bottom of the table, in a worldwide count, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
They pushed Jews, who were on top of the global list, to the second position in the US 96% to 75% in a count of those with higher education, and beat all others, Muslims, Buddhists, the unaffiliated and Christians, who finished in that order.
The worldwide count was another matter. Hindus were at the bottom of the table, tied with Muslims with 5.6 average years of formal education. Jews topped with 13.4; Christians were next with 9.3; unaffiliated 8.8 and Buddhists 7.9.
In fact, Hindus in north America, Europe, the Caribbeans, sub-Saharan Africa and anywhere outside Hindu-majority India were found to have more education than in the country that is home to the religion, according to the study published on Tuesday.
As dismal as that might look, there is a good story in these numbers: the share of Hindus with at least some formal schooling rose by 28 points, from 43% among the oldest Hindus in the study to 71% among the youngest.
There is progress also on gender gap, though it remains high: among the oldest Hindus, 72% of women and 41% of men had no formal schooling. But the gap is smaller among the youngest, 38% of women and 20% of men have no formal schooling.
For the purpose of the study, Pew focussed on “educational attainment in terms of number of years of schooling”, and not on the quality of education or any related parameters, saying educational systems differ across the world.
The findings, the report said, were kept descriptive, without assigning reasons to them, but it did note that “education levels are affected by many factors other than religion, including socioeconomic conditions, government resources and migration policies, the presence or absence of armed conflict and the prevalence of child labour and marriage”.
In other words, religion was not the determining factor. Why else would Hindus in the US beat every other religious grouping, and then come last in the worldwide count? Also, Muslims, who came third in the US list.
Could income be a factor? Hindus have the second highest annual household income among religious groups in the US, after Jews, according to another study by Pew, which noted, there was a strong correlation between education and income.
Nearly “all Hindus” in North America, Europe and the Latin America-Caribbean region and 93% in sub-Saharan Africa (which includes Hindu-majority Mauritius) have received at least some schooling, compared to 59% of Hindus in India.
Hindus in India average 5.5 years of schooling, and 3.9 and 4.6 respectively in Nepal and Bangladesh, the next two countries with the largest populations of Hindus.
Hindus in the United States have 15.7 years of schooling, on average, a full year more than the next most highly educated US religious group (Jews) the study noted. Hindus in Europe also are also doing much better, averaging 13.9 years of schooling.