U.S. women have, for decades, been more likely to attend religious services each week than men.

That gap has narrowed significantly in recent years, a Pew Research Group analysis found.

The gender gap grew from 10 percentage points in 1972 to a height of 13 points in 1982, when 38 percent of women and 25 percent of men said they attended religious services weekly.

Since then, both groups have seen an attendance decline. The number of women who attend weekly services has dropped 10 points (to 28 percent) over the last 30 years.

Male attendance has declined by only three points (to 22 percent) over the same period.

The resulting six-point gap is the smallest margin since surveys began.

Several ideas have been offered to explain the trend, Pew explained, with one theory suggesting a correlation between an increase in women working outside the home and a decline in overall female weekly religious service participation.

“Scholars have found that in the U.S. and other predominantly Christian countries, women working in the labor force attend religious services less often than women outside the labor force and show a smaller gender gap with men,” the report explained.

“However, it should be noted that the fastest increase in women’s full-time employment during this period occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which time the gender gap on religious service attendance actually widened somewhat.”

The decrease in the number of women who affiliated with a religious tradition has also influenced weekly attendance, Pew noted.

In 1982, 40 percent of U.S. women self-identified with a religious tradition, while only 33 percent did so in 2012. During that same time, religiously affiliated men moved from 27 percent (1982) to 28 percent (2012).

The full report is available here.

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