College selectivity is associated with numerous positive life outcomes, but research on the antecedents of college selectivity, including religion, is limited—despite a long tradition of religion and stratification research. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 2,093) and semi-structured interviews from the National Study of Youth and Religion (N = 46), we test for and explain differences in the college selectivity of students from conservative Protestant (CP) religious backgrounds compared to others. We hypothesize that CPs attend less selective colleges than other young adults, and that this may especially be the case among women. Our quantitative findings suggest CPs do attend less selective colleges, and the difference is greater among those with better high school GPAs. However, these differences are nonexistent for men once background factors are controlled. CP women attend less selective colleges than other women—a difference that is even larger among women with higher academic ability. Our qualitative findings suggest that these differences stem from young women's different understandings of the purposes of college (general self-betterment versus human capital investment), which relate to unique strategies for balancing work and family, enacting altruism, and achieving self-satisfaction. These findings show the continued link between religion and stratification and, more broadly, culture and stratification.


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pp. 661-689
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