More Gen Z women leaving the church than men: survey

Woman standing in the aisle of a church.
Woman standing in the aisle of a church. | Getty Images

A higher percentage of young women have left organized religion and identify as religiously unaffiliated than their male counterparts, prompting concerns about the future of religion in the United States, according to a recent survey. 

The Survey Center on American Life released new research last week examining the views on religion in the U.S. based on responses collected from 5,459 American adults in 2023. The survey found that in contrast to the older generations, women constitute a majority of Gen Zers who have disaffiliated from organized religion.

Men make up a majority of baby boomers (57%), Generation X (55%) and millennials (53%) who have left organized religion, while a solid majority of Generation Z (57%) who have abandoned organized religion are women. The research suggests that young women’s skepticism about organized religion stems from a belief that most churches do not “treat men and women equally.”

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When asked if they disagreed that “most churches and religious congregations treat men and women equally,” small majorities of women aged 65 and older (53%) and women between the ages of 50 and 64 (57%) answered in the affirmative. Much larger majorities of women between the ages of 30 and 49 (64%) and women between the ages of 18 and 29 (65%) thought churches treat men and women unequally. 

With the exception of men between the ages of 50 and 64, 49% of whom disagree that churches treat women the same way they do men, majorities of men agree with their female counterparts about churches’ treatment of women. Fifty-five percent of men between the ages of 30 and 49 believe that churches treat men and women unequally, along with 54% of men between the ages of 18 and 29, and 51% of men aged 65 and older. 

While Gen Z is the first generation in which a higher share of women have left organized religion than men, the youngest generation of American adults is also the first generation in which a larger percentage of women identify as religiously unaffiliated than their male counterparts. Thirty-nine percent of Gen Z women describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated compared to 34% of Gen Z men who place themselves in the same category. 

By contrast, 37% of millennial men identify as religiously unaffiliated, a slightly higher share than the 34% of millennial women who said the same. A similarly small gap exists between religiously unaffiliated Gen X men (23%) and religiously unaffiliated Gen X women (27%). A noticeably larger percentage of baby boomer men consider themselves religiously unaffiliated (23%) than baby boomer women (14%). 

The research lists additional factors that might explain the reason why young women are rejecting organized religion. One explanation offered is that “sixty-one percent of Gen Z women identify as feminist, far greater than women from previous generations.” 

Another finding, citing statistics from the Public Religion Research Institute, identified churches’ supposed “negative treatment of gay and lesbian people” as a reason why young people are abandoning organized religion. The report also pointed to research included in the 2022 General Social Survey finding that 54% of young women believe that “abortion should be available without any restriction” as another possible contributing factor to the decline in religiosity among Gen Z women.

The report concludes by looking at the practical implications of young women’s rejection of religion: “The waning religious involvement among young women represents a unique challenge to churches and congregations. Studies show that women tend to contribute much more time and energy to community building and volunteer efforts in places of worship. Without this dedicated source of labor, many congregations will be unable to serve their membership and their communities.”

“Research finds that mothers play an instrumental role in passing on religious values and beliefs to their children. Americans who were raised in religious households credit their mothers more so than their fathers for leading in their religious upbringing, and children who are raised in mixed-faith households are more likely to adopt their mother’s faith in adulthood,” the report added. “None of this is good news for America’s places of worship. Many of these young women are gone for good.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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