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Ilana Horwitz attended "The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion" annual meeting

Feb 3 2020

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In October 2019, I attended the annual meeting for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, which was held in St. Louis MO. During the meeting, I presented a paper at a session devoted to religion and education. I began my talk by describing emerging research, which suggests religious cultures can limit students’ attendance at selective colleges, especially for high-achieving young women. But, I argued, just as not all education is the same, not all religion is the same. With survey data from the National Study of Young and Religion, I demonstrated that there is a Jewish premium in attendance at selective colleges. This premium is gendered, driven by Jewish women attending selective colleges at much higher rates than non-Jewish women. Using longitudinal interviews linked to data from the National Student Clearing House, I then compared the educational careers of Jewish and non-Jewish women to explore why one religious subculture facilitates women’s education while others constrain it. I showed a clear divergence beginning early in young women’s lives, with stark contrasts in aspirations for how they envision their educational pathways and careers: Whereas other middle and high schoolers aspire to motherhood, young Jewish women aspire to be prominent professionals, such as lawyers and businesswomen. To position themselves for such careers, Jewish adolescents thus organize their schooling experiences to align with their career-oriented vision, and subsequently attend more selective colleges than comparable non-Jewish women. My findings show that ethnoreligious subcultures can promote rather than constrain women’s educational pathways if they encourage girls’ career aspirations instead of placing motherhood on a pedestal.