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Jewish Journal

Findings Reveal Demographic Shift

by Joe Berkofsky

October 10, 2002 | 8:00 pm

This is the American Jewish world, by the numbers, as revealed in the just-released National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001 (NJPS)

The Jewish population now stands at 5.2 million, down 5.45 percent from 5.5 million in 1990.

Jews represent 2 percent of the general U.S. population, which stands at 288 million, an increase of 33 million from 1990.

The Jewish population resides in 2.9 million Jewish households, with a total of 6.7 million people in all those households.

This means that 1.5 million of those people -- one out of every five people living in a Jewish household on average -- are not Jewish.

The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of local Jewish federations and sponsor of the study, released only the demographic findings this week.

Other parts of the study, which will address issues of Jewish identity and affiliation, will be released at the group's annual gathering in Philadelphia at the end of November.

Among the key findings released on Tuesday:

Age:

The median age of U.S. Jews is 41, up from 37 in 1990, and in contrast to the median age of 35 in the general U.S. population.

19 percent are age 65 and older, up from 15 percent in 1990, compared with 12 percent in the general population.

19 percent are age 17 and younger, down from 21 percent in 1990, compared with 26 percent in the general population.

Gender and Marriage

51 percent of U.S. Jews are female, 49 percent are male. The gender distribution is the same as the general population and is unchanged from 1990.

54 percent of U.S. Jews aged 18 and older are married, compared with 57 percent in the general U.S. population.

26 percent aged 18 and older are single and never married, compared with 24 percent in the general population.

30 percent of Jewish men are single compared with 22 percent of Jewish women.

9 percent of Jewish adults are divorced, 4 percent are separated and 7 percent are widowed. All of these figures parallel those in the U.S. adult population as a whole. The NJPS numbers regarding Jews who live with their boyfriend or girlfriend have not been released.

59 percent of Jewish adults have married once, 13 percent twice and 2 percent three times or more.

Fertility:

Jewish women approaching the end of their childbearing years, aged 40-44, have an average of 1.8 children, which is below the replacement level of 2.1.

52 percent of Jewish women aged 30-34 have no children, compared with 42 percent in 1990 and 27 percent among the general population in 2000.

National Origin:

85 percent of Jewish adults were born in United States.

Of the 15 percent of foreign-born Jews, 44 percent come from the former Soviet Union ( 20 percent from the Ukraine, 13 percent from Russia, the rest from other parts of the former USSR) and 10 percent each from Israel and Germany.

Population by Region

There has been little change in the regional distribution of Jews since 1990:

43 percent of Jews live in the Northeast, compared with 19 percent of the total population.

22 percent of Jews live in the West, compared with 23 percent of non- Jews.

22 percent of Jews live in the South, compared with 35 percent of non-Jews.

13 percent of Jews live in the Midwest, compared with 23 percent of non-Jews.

38 percent of Jews live in a different region of the country from where they were born.

Households:

The average number of people per Jewish household is 2.3, down from 2.5 percent in 1990, and compared with 2.6 percent in non-Jewish households.

30 percent of Jewish households have one person, compared with 26 percent of non-Jewish households, up from 24 percent in 1990.

38 percent have two people, 13 percent have three, 12 percent have four and 8 percent have five or more (compared with the general population, where 14 percent have four people and 11 percent have five or more).

Education:

24 percent of adult Jews have a graduate degree, and 55 percent have earned at least a bachelor's degree, as compared with 5 percent and 28 percent, respectively, in the general population.

Employment:

62 percent of Jews are employed full-time or part-time, just 1 percent higher than in 1990; broken down by gender, 68 percent of Jewish men are employed, 56 percent of women are.

21 percent of Jews are retired, up from 16 percent in 1990 and compared with 16 percent of non-Jews.

59 percent of Jews work in management, business and professional/technical positions, compared with 46 percent of non-Jews who work in those areas.

Of the 59 percent, 41 percent work in professional or technical positions.

Income:

$50,000 is the median income among Jews, compared with $42,000 among non-Jews.

19 percent of U.S. Jews are defined as low income, earning $25,000 annually or less, compared with 29 percent of non-Jews.

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