In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Muslim and Christian communities coexist side by side. But a huge gap exists between them when it comes to educational attainment, with African Christians more than twice as likely to have formal schooling than their Muslim counterparts, a Pew Research Center study shows.
The study, which looked at the number of years of schooling both groups received based on age and gender, showed that 65% of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa had no formal education—the highest anywhere in the world. By contrast, 30% of Christians in the region had not enrolled or completed any form or level of schooling.
The Pew findings drew on census and survey data from 151 countries—36 from sub-Saharan Africa—and analyzed educational levels among believers of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and the religiously unaffiliated. In 18 out of 27 countries with substantial Christian and Muslim populations in the region, Muslims trailed Christians by at least 10 percentage points. Nine countries had education data on Muslims only (Comoros, Gambia, Niger and Somalia) or Christians only (Cape Verde, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe).
Christianity and Islam are the two dominant religions in sub-Saharan Africa, together accounting for more than 93% of the population. Given the dropping child mortality and high fertility rates in the region, much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity is expected to take place there in the coming decades. By 2050, for instance, four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.