Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Survey of American Jews Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Survey of American Jews Check out this survey of the American Jewish community (lots of stuff for all the data hogs out there!). The general conclusions are pretty obvious-the more secular you are, the more likely you are to intermarry, etc. etc. But here is something that caught my attention: There are three major groups they surveyed, Jews by religion (practicing Jews), Jews of no religion (non-practicing Jews) and Jews of other religions (presumably mostly Christian). The interesting thing is that while the number of college graduates among the first two groups was about same-there were far fewer in the last group. This group is heterogeneous-Jews who convert to other religions, those of Jewish parentage (one or both) who were raised in another religion, and so forth. But their relative lack of educational achievement compared to the former categories is a tantalizing clue to possible assortive mating. What am I getting at? Perhaps those most likely to leave the Jewish community are those most out of step socially and intellectually-the sibling that didn't have the grades to go to Harvard (25% Jewish) but went to the local state college where the prospects of finding a Jewish boyfriend or girlfriend are far lower (and running into Christians and Christian proselytizing organizations greater). It could also be that overachievers are least likely to be affected by social pressures to conform to American norms-in other words explaining the rather high rates of atheism among Jews with no religion (25%) despite the stereotype that they are assimilating toward the general population (where 1% are atheists-and around 10% of those with "no religion" are atheists). Many of the Jews with no religion are products of mixed-marriages-just as those with other religions are (to an even greater extent), and yet this group shows no drop off in educational attainment. Today with intermarriage rates around 50% these tendencies are easy to note. But what about the past? There have always been Jews that fell away from their people. Who were they? The best and the brightest? Or the social outcast who wanted to find acceptance? Where the marranos that remained in Christian Spain and over the centuries became Catholics in fact as well as name socioeconomically different than those that left for the Netherlands and the Ottoman Empire?