The Muslim gender gap in educational attainment is shrinking

Source: Pew Research Center

On average, Muslim men around the world have more formal schooling than women, a fact well-known by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai and other Muslim activists for female education. But while the Muslim gender gap in education remains large, relative to most other major religious groups, it has narrowed in recent generations: Muslim women have made greater educational gains than Muslim men in most regions of the world, according to Pew Research Center’s comprehensive new study on educational attainment among the world’s major religious groups.

The study looked at changes in educational attainment across three recent generations, finding that the youngest generation of Muslim adults analyzed (born 1976 to 1985) have far more formal education than those in the oldest generation analyzed (born 1936 to 1955). While both men and women are contributing to these gains, women have been gaining at a faster rate.

The oldest Muslim women in the study averaged just 2.5 years of schooling, compared with 4.6 years for men – a gap of 2.1 years. Young women (ages 25 to 34 as of 2010), by comparison, have averaged more than twice as many years of formal education as their female elders (6.1 years), and now trail young men (7.3 years) by just over a year. 

Another way to measure education is by looking at the percentage of people with no formal schooling, and the Muslim gender gap also has narrowed from this perspective. Globally, a majority of the oldest generation of Muslim women analyzed (64%) had no formal schooling, but this figure is 31 percentage points lower among the youngest generation (33%). Meanwhile, the share of Muslim men who never received any formal education dropped by a more-modest 20 points across three generations (43% to 23%).

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