Education Essay

Published 26 Aug 2016

Learning the hard way

Educational gender gap and religion and its impact on growth

Until now, various contentions as to whether religious institutions helped develop the human capital of any woman population in every country around the world still prevailed. And most of the time, the answers were insufficient, at times revolting and contradictory. However, the relationship between religion and women empowerment in this countries can be seen in educational institutions and how it has contributed to growth. The latter is characterized by economic growth coinciding with the continuous development of the human capital. As such, this paper will try to analyze biblical and religious principles that are inconsistent with legal and societal expectations through contemporary educational issues such as the “educational gender gap” (Todaro, 1999).

In doing so, this paper will trace the significance of educational attainment to economic growth. From such framework, the paper will go on to analyze the issues of gender inequality that impairs continuous economic growth in certain countries. This educational issue will be treated as a dependent variable that is arguably influenced by religious institutions present in the country. Although this will look upon biblical institutions, the research cannot help but juxtapose the Catholic religion along with other religious institution and cultural norms to look upon its impact to the society. Moreover, this is inevitable for the research used secondary cross-sectional data from other researchers in this field.

Educational gender gap and economic growth

Nowadays, female education is largely recognized as a significant determinant of economic growth. Most developing economies should arguably invest in female education so that they may be able to harness the full potential of the lagged effects, albeit the direct effects, of female education to economic growth. This is clearly manifested in the increase in the human capital of the children of a particular nation (Behrmann, Foster, Rosenzwieg and Vashishtha, 1999).

On the other hand, in the face of such reality lies what is so-called as the “educational gender gap (Todaro, 1997). Todaro (in Norton and Tomal, 2006) for instance argued that reducing such gap will improve the economy and quality of life of the nation. There are various benefits to increasing the investment in female education, according to Todaro (in Norton and Tomal, 2006),

Investing in female education will lead to higher rates of return for investment in female education compared to male education in developing countries. Todaro also cites increased labor force participation and corresponding later marriages, reduction in fertility and improved nutrition as results from increased investment in female education. Finally, Todaro notes that investment in female education should help relieve the burdens of poverty because women bear a disproportionate cost of poverty.

Many scholars in this field recognize the necessity to develop the human capital of women for their participation in the labor markets is seen as an impetus towards economic growth. Nonetheless, beyond the issue of gender educational gap lies another issue that merits our attention.

It is worth noting that this issue has been the consistent focus of the researches done by scholars in the field of education. For instance, Norton and Tomal (2006) analyzed the relationships between religion and economic growth and education and economic growth. Thereafter, they tried to probe whether the country’s religious affiliation is related to the educational attainment of the women population and the existence of a gender gap (Norton and Toaml, 2006).

One of the most notable sociologists who tried to establish a link between religion and economic growth is Max Weber (1889), where he analyzed the growth of capitalist economies at the onset of the Protestant Reformation in Western societies. This is where he proposed the concept of the Protestant Ethic as the basis for the accumulation of wealth and the pursuit of self-improvement in a capitalist society. However, this view has been challenge by many scholars and rather proposed a reverse causality where the Protestant religion did not cause capitalism to flourish. Capitalist institutions were present in Western societies long before the Reformation movement.

Educational gender gap and religious institutions

Although there is no direct interrelationship among economic growth, religion and education, gender gap issues in education and how it can influence the women human capital is rooted on the long-standing issue of religion and cultural norms. Most of the time in underdeveloped countries, high infant mortality rates and the institutionalized valuation of large families are, in some way, supported by various religious dogmas and institutionalized religious authority (Norton and Tomal, 2006).

Moreover, Islamic countries are not immune to such circumstances. In the study conducted by Niels, Jeroen and Mieke (2009) on the relationship of Islam and gender equality, they found out that “in these countries, modernization may lead to the empowerment of women by increasing their absolute labor market participation, but that for attaining gender equality the political opportunity structures is most important.”However, in the face of modernity, gender has become a contentious issue in such countries that women equality and education have become a far cry for the very institutions governing these countries suppressed such kinds of political opportunity structures. And they will continue to do so for quite some time.

As such, Muslim and Latin American countries showed considerably higher levels of gender inequality, measured by life expectancy, education, and income (Norton and Tomal, 2006). These societies are themselves promulgating a seemingly institutionalized patriarchal pattern of norms. For instance, in Islamic countries, women are considered to be supported financially by men and any immediate relatives of the latter. Latin American countries, however, have norms that are largely grounded in Catholic traditions.

Furthermore, Catholic countries have 15 percent, on average, lower female labor participation rates compared to Protestant countries, according to most cross-sectional studies done in the field. Although the argument whether the Protestant religion contributed much to the development of the capitalist economy is still a bone of contention, the paper by Norton and Tomal (2006), for instance, established a relationship between education gender gap and religious institution vis-à-vis economic growth. In regions where the Catholic, Muslim, and other tribal memberships are in considerably large proportions, education gender gap tends to be higher compared to Protestant countries.

In a study by Dollar and Gatti (1999), they found out that gender inequality in developing countries is more pronounced compared to developed countries.

In the poorest countries, as a rule, girls get less education than boys, there is less investment in women’s health than in men’s, legal rights of women in the economy and in marriage are weaker than men’s rights, and women have less political power (as evidenced, for example, by their low representation in parliaments).

They have found out three considerable generalizations with regard to their study of gender inequality in education and religion. First, they found out that Muslim and Hindu religions are consistently associated with higher gender inequality compared to Protestant countries. Second, gender inequality in education can prove to be very detrimental to economic growth. And finally, economic growth can facilitate a handful of improvements in the measures of gender equality, such as education.

Taking it the easy way

Indeed, biblical and religious principles have considerable influences on the education of the women population, albeit it provided us with the necessary values and morals that we have lived by for years in our lives and have become embedded in our historicity. On the other hand, when these principles come face to face with the modern predicament, it stands completely opposite. This is clearly manifested in the above-mentioned contemporary issue in education that is gender inequality. The challenge therefore for countries, especially the developing ones, is to transvalue such principles and mold such teachings according to the demands of modernity. Unless these countries are able to do so, taking such issue the easy way is still far from probable.


  1. Dollar, David and Roberta Gatti. (1999). “Gender Inequality, Income, and Growth: Are Good
  2. Times Good for Women?” In Policy Research Report on Gender and Development, Working Series Paper, No. 1. The World Bank Development Research Group/ Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network
  3. Niels, Spierings, Jeroen, Smits, and Mieke, Verloo. (2009). “On the Compatibility of Islam and Gender Equality : Effects of Modernization, State Islamization, and Democracy on Women’s Labor Market Participation in 45 Muslim Countries.” Social indicators research. 2009,vol.90, no. 3,pp.503-522.
  4. Norton, Seth W. and Annete Tomal. (2006). Religion and Female Education Attainment.
  5. Wheaton College.Todaro, Michael. (1997). Economic Development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley PublishingCo.
  6. Weber, Max. (1930). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: Scribner.
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