Jewish Journal


April 29, 2013

Jews and the Increasing US Wealth Gap



Will Organized Jewish Philanthropic Giving
Emulate "Citizens United" Political Giving?
Chart by Sunlight Foundation

Last year the Sunlight Foundation examined data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics that looked at the 2008 election cycle data and found a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on what they termed the One Percent of the One Percent, resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves.  This may be a result of a trend of wealth polarization, which seems to have exacerbated during the first term of the Obama administration.

The Pew Research Center recently released a study showing that the wealthiest 7% of U.S. households increased their net worth during the first two years of the economic “recovery” by over a quarter while the remaining 97% of households “recovered” by losing about a twentieth of their net assets.

As the vast majority of Jews may be among the 97% less wealthy “middle class” with household net worth (value of equity of property, financial assets, etc.) of $836,033 or lower.  It’s safe to say that the bifurcation of the Jewish community reflects the general U.S. society where the wealthy are increasing their wealth (primarily through financial instruments) and the middle class is declining.

What does this mean for the organized Jewish community? Communal institutions are more reliant than ever on major donors and the trend to cater to the sometimes idiosyncratic interests, tastes and orientations of households of greater wealth will continue to increase.  The very wealthy often have significantly different orientations than the majority Jewish community.  This may be one of the explanations for the greater Jewish middle class disaffiliation from the “organized Jewish community” which may be increasingly taking its lead from it’s increasingly wealthy members.

This phenomenon took expression in the last presidential elections, but was rebuffed through the power of the ballot box.  The organized Jewish community lacks a ballot box and perhaps the only vote that counts is measured in cash

Pini Herman, PhD. specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis, 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 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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