The NYT trots out an old media trope that Christians are uneducated rubes compared to everyone else, and hangs it on a Pew study.
The New York Times wants you to know that Christians in America are dumb and uneducated compared to other religious groups, and there’s a Pew Research Center study to prove it.
“Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says,” blared the headline of a Times story on the Pew report, which measures the education levels of religious groups around the world.
“There were 267 million Christians in the United States when the data was collected, but only 36 percent of them had a postsecondary education,” wrote Times reporter Liam Stack. “That made them the least-educated religious group in the country.”
The Times has a funny way of interpreting Pew’s study, which opens by noting that “gaps in educational attainment are partly a function of where religious groups are concentrated throughout the world.”
That of course suggests something else about what kinds of religious groups one finds in different parts of the world, and especially in America, namely, that educational attainment is often a function of immigration. The Times piece notes briefly at the top of the story that educational differences between groups are “rooted in immigration policies that favor the educated,” but buries the fact that Pew’s report says 87 percent of Hindus in the United States were born overseas, as were 64 percent of Muslims, compared to only 14 percent of Christians.
That is, Hindus and Muslims in America are overwhelmingly immigrants who tend to be more educated and wealthier when compared to those in their country of origin. Many of them arrive here for the express purpose of earning a graduate or medical degree. That’s why Hindus in America are three times as likely as Christians to have a postsecondary degree, yet globally Hindus are tied with Muslims as the least-educated religious group in the world.
This should be obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity of how immigration works in this country, or of how to interpret studies of this type. But The New York Times isn’t terribly interested in the effects of immigration on education. Nor is it interested in religion—after all, the Times’ executive editor recently admitted, “We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” It’s not even interested in the Pew study. The primary purpose of its coverage is to convey the idea that Christians in America are uneducated rubes.
That narrative fits nicely with the Left’s notion that Christians’ influence in America is waning. Digging too deeply into the data, or thinking for two seconds about why religious minorities in America might be more educated than Christians, undermines the purpose of running a piece on the Pew study in the first place.
For example, the Times makes no mention of the effect low-skilled Hispanic Catholic immigrants have on the Pew data. If you really wanted to understand the interplay between religion and education in America, you would consider that.
You might also consider that if you discount immigrants from Latin America, Christian immigrants to the United States tend to be highly educated. And if you want to look at American Christians as a group, they’re actually more educated than the population at large. Only about 33 percent of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, yet the Times tweeted out that “Only 36% of Christians in the U.S. have a postsecondary education.”
But if you just want to drag out the mainstream media’s old trope that Christians in America are “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command,” then you would ignore all this and twist the Pew data into knots by treating Christians as merely one of several “religious groups” in America, along with Hindus and Jews.
The fact is, there’s no other religious group of comparable size in America with which to compare Christians, which is why Pew’s study looks at global trends. More than 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, so of course they have lower overall education levels than minority religious groups. This is also certainly true of Hindus in India, Muslims in Egypt, and Buddhists in Thailand. But you won’t see headlines in the Times blaring “Hindus least-educated religious group in India,” because that would be absurd.
At a time when the mainstream media is wringing its hands about “fake news,” the Times’ distorted coverage of an otherwise interesting Pew report is a stark reminder that our media establishment harbors deep biases, especially against Christianity, and that it’s willing to bend over backwards to disguise those biases as news coverage.