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Gender and Religiousness: Can Socialization Explanations Be Saved?1

Hokkaido UniversityUniversity of Washington

It has long been assumed in sociology that gender differences in religiousness are a product of differential socialization. Yet, there is little empirical support for this assumption. To address this gap in the literature, this study draws on an extensive investigation of the relationship between differential socialization and differential religiousness. Using the American General Social Surveys and the World Values Survey, this article analyzes the relationship between traditional gender attitudes and gender differences in religious beliefs and behavior. Surprisingly, these data show no relationship between the two. Therefore, a new set of hypotheses based on an alternative model involving risk preference is proposed. Results strongly support this new approach. Women are more religious than men to the extent that being irreligious constitutes risk‐taking behavior. This model is able to predict differential religiousness in a wide variety of religious and cultural settings. Implications of these findings are discussed.