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Religious minorities in the United States are more educated than the U.S. population as a whole. That's one finding from a new survey. And it offers clues about who comes to the U.S. and why. The survey looked at the education levels among members of various faiths. It found Muslims and Hindus to be among the most educated Americans. That is not the case for Muslims and Hindus elsewhere in the world. NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.
TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The survey from the Pew Research Center suggests that the United States is attracting the best and the brightest, at least as far as Hindus and Muslims are concerned. Worldwide, Muslims and Hindus have the lowest education levels of all religious groups, fewer than six years of schooling on average. But here in the United States - a very different story. Conrad Hackett is a demographer at the Pew Research Center.
CONRAD HACKETT: Hindus and Muslims in the U.S. are a pretty elite segment of the global Hindu and Muslim population.
GJELTEN: Here's how elite. Ninety-six percent of Hindus in the U.S. have college degrees. They have more schooling than Jews, the next most educated religious group. Muslim Americans generally have about 14 years of schooling - again, well above the US average. These are mostly newcomers. Nearly 9 out of 10 Hindus in the United States and 2 of 3 Muslims were born outside the country.
With their relatively high levels of education, they qualify for higher-paying positions. Their story doesn't fit with the stereotype of immigrants competing with native-born workers for low-skill jobs. Karthick Ramakrishnan, an immigration expert at the University of California, Riverside, says the data challenge another stereotype that Asian-Americans do well in school because educational attainment is valued in their world.
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: A lot of people, when they look at Asian-Americans and their relative success - they say that there's something about Asian culture, whereas, in fact, if you look at culture in Asia, it doesn't predict the same level of success. So we have to look for answers elsewhere.
GJELTEN: Jews, another religious minority, are well-educated wherever they're found. But for Hindus and Muslims in the U.S., high schooling levels are explained largely by their immigration patterns, says Conrad Hackett of Pew. Most have come all the way from South Asia or the Middle East.
HACKETT: They had to travel to United States, perhaps at considerable costs, and deal with the U.S. migration policies, which, in many cases, favor people who have skills that they've acquired through getting considerable education.
GJELTEN: They leave behind the more poorly educated segment of the population who can't afford to immigrate or don't qualify. But there is some good news for them. The Pew study found education for Hindus and Muslims is improving around the world with especially notable gains for Hindu and Muslim women. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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