Jewish Journal

Jewish Demographic Hints From Current U.S. Census Data

by Pini Herman

January 10, 2013 | 11:25 am

Use When Jewish Federation of North America Doesn't Count Our Own

My colleague, Bruce Phillips, returned from a scientific meeting embarrassed that among the major Jewish communities, only LA has not had a recent Jewish population survey and he was motivated to look at data from 2007 Pew survey which might hint at how LA’s Jews are the same or differ from Jews in other parts of the U.S.  His interesting findings were detailed in his blog of last week.

Taking Bruce’s lead in searching for hints about Jews in already existing data, I embarked on a similar attempt.  In Los Angeles county there is one easily measured “Jewish canary,” Beverly Hills, It’s majority Jewish composition may be used to hint at some change in Jewish demographic characteristics over the last decade.  Nationally, Kiryas Joel Village, New York with a population of twenty thousand is also well known for having the greatest Jewish population per-capita of any U.S. incorporated area.  The contrast of financially well-off West Coast non-Orthodox Jews and mainly low-income and impoverished East coast ultra-Orthodox might be instructive.  The characteristics of the  vast majority of “Jews-in-the-middle” remains very much of a mystery because of the lack of a current national Jewish population survey by JFNA (Jewish Federation of North America, previously the United Jewish Communities [UJF], earlier the Council of Jewish Federations [CJF]).

Beverly Hills is the incorporated U.S. City with the greatest Jewish population on a per-capita basis. The 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Population found 20,500 Jews living among a total population of 33,784 in 2000  and 34,109 in 2010.   Assuming that Beverly Hills,  an area known for its high socio-economic indicators, remained 60% Jewish, it may be imputed as a rough indicator of Jewish demographic characteristics change over the last decade.

In an interesting contrast to Beverly Hills, Kiryas Joel Village, New York is the poorest incorporated 2010 census area with with 57 percent of families living in poverty found in the U.S. Kiryas Joel has an estimated 93 percent Jewish population on a per-capita basis (based in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian spoken in homes). Additionally, there is Lakewood Township, New Jersey, with over triple the population of Beverly Hills or Kiryas Joel, is  one  of the fastest growing incorporated areas in 2010 was with an estimated 59% of the total 2010 population being Jewish.  Both Kiryas Joel and Lakewood are incorporated areas reflecting the high birthrates Jewish Orthodox.

In the decade between 2000 and 2010 Beverly Hills saw, 4 percent decline in its childbearing 25 to 44 year old adult population and a 1 percent decline in it’s child population of age 0 to 14.  The over age 65 population increased about 1.5 percent.  The median age in Beverly Hills increased  from 41.3 to 43.6 in the past decade.  This change in age composition would not be a surprising finding if a Jewish population study would be conducted now.

In Beverly Hills over the last decade, the median family income rose 9 percent and the mean family income, a measure more influenced by families with very high incomes, rose 122 percent in 2010 dollars adjusted for inflation. This indicates a disproportionate increase of income among the likely Jewish families who were above the Beverly Hills median family income in any case. 

Overall, the median income of Jewish families characteristic of both ends of the economic scale may have improved moderately while the overall US median income stagnated in real dollar terms.  The average income (an economic measure more influenced by extremes of poverty and wealth) of Jewish families shows gains both among the poorest of Jewish communities and hints at a doubling of average family income in Beverly Hills.  In real terms, it is well known that US average family income declined slightly in the past decade.


Overall, this snapshot of Beverly Hills extrapolated to the larger picture, reflects of what is known about the general U.S. population and probably reflects the Jewish community as well, income has been polarizing.   The community remaining in Beverly Hills is getting wealthier and the wealthiest families, even wealthier.

Missing from this picture are those families not able to retain their foothold in Beverly Hills, or even in the middle class.  This is something we know anecdotally but only a current Los Angeles Jewish population study could shed light on it.

A future blog will look at another majority Jewish incorporated are, Kiryas Joel, and what it’s U.S. census demographics hint at.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (and author of the “most recent” 15 year old study of the LA Jewish population which was the third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archive in 2011) and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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