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PROVO -- For many American teens, "the road to college goes through the chapel," according to sociologists from Brigham Young University and Rice University.
The researchers found religiously-affiliated youth are 40 percent more likely to graduate high school than their unaffiliated peers and 70 percent more likely to enroll in college.
They also noted the teens' fellow church-goers acted as mentors and helped them set their educational sights high.
"Youth have a unique chance to form relationships with peers and mentors outside of their classroom at school or their neighborhood at home," said Lance Erickson, the lead study author and a sociologist at BYU.
Co-author James Phillips of Rice University said, "Having a non-parent, adult figure who provides positive behavioral encouragement and that a teenager feels comfortable approaching is huge."
Other study highlights include:
- Catholic teens, mainline Protestants and black Protestant congregants are twice as likely as unaffiliated teens to finish high school and about 80 percent more likely to enroll in college.
- Jewish and Mormon youth have the highest odds of graduating high school and college enrollment.
- Church attendance was especially predictive of high school graduation, while prayer was more influential for college enrollment.