The Gallup polling organization has recently released its State of the States poll, one area of which looks at religiosity in America. In that section Gallup was able to rank the states according to their level of participation in religion. The top ten states were: Mississippi (where a whopping 58% of the respondents claimed to be "very religious"), Utah (56%), Alabama (56%), Louisiana (53%), Arkansas (52%), South Carolina (52%), Tennessee (50%), North Carolina (50%), Georgia (48%), and Oklahoma (48%).
The heathen states, those at the bottom of the list, were: Washington, Connecticut, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada (each at 31%), the District of Columbia (30%), Oregon (29%), Rhode Island (29%), Massachusetts (29%) Maine (27%) New Hampshire (24%), and the least religious state in America: Vermont (19%).
I thought it might be fun to overlay those findings with state-by-state educational rankings. However, as I began to explore that topic, I quickly learned that states are ranked on education by a wide divergence of sources - with results that are wildly different - depending upon the sources. Those awful folks at ALEC rank states on education, as do Education Week (magazine) and the National Education Association. (Most of the sources rank Vermont in the top ten, and all rank Mississippi near the bottom.)
I chose to go with the rankings put out by Kids Count, an annual report of the welfare of children in America that is put together by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. I have often referred to Kids Count over the years when conducting social work research. Of the ten most religious states, four were in the bottom eleven on eduction rankings: Mississippi (48), Louisiana (45), Alabama (44) and Oklahoma (40). None were in the top ten on educational rankings, and only three were even in the top thirty.
Of the least religious states, four were in the top ten when ranked on education: Massachusetts (1), Vermont (3), New Hampshire (4), and Connecticut (6).
One state was a clear anomaly: Nevada was in the least religious pile - and it was also at the very bottom (50) of the education rankings. Perhaps gambling and prostitution do not lend themselves to religion or education.
And while I have long since forgotten my statistics classes, (and while I clearly remember that a strong correlation does not prove cause-and-effect), I would be willing to bet that the relationship between religion and education is statistically significant at the .05 level.
There are some things that seem apparent: All of the most religious states with the exception of Utah are in the American South. The least religious states are grouped in New England and the Far West. Four of the top ten states for education are in New England.
Again, a strong correlation does not equate to cause-and-effect, but it does provide some nourishing food for thought!