Who is filling the pews in American churches? It is increasingly likely that they won’t be working class white people, according to new research.

While religious service attendance has decreased for all white Americans since the early 1970s, the rate of decline has been more than twice as high for less educated, lower and lower-middle class whites compared to more educated and presumably more affluent whites, according to a study presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.

“My assumption going into this research was that middle America was more religious and conservative in general than more educated America,” study author Brad Wilcox told msnbc.com. “But what is surprising about this is that when it comes to religion as well as marriage, we find that the college educated are more conventional in their lifestyle than middle Americans.”

In the last four decades, monthly (or more) participation in religious services dropped from 50 percent of moderately educated (high school and perhaps some college) whites to 37 percent, according to the study, “No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life Among the White Working Class.” Attendance by the least educated (high school dropouts) dropped from 38 percent to 23 percent, by sociologists Wilcox, of the University of Virginia and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University found.

Continue Reading on www.msnbc.msn.com