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American Jewish Identity

Asked about their religious affiliation, 1.5% of Americans identified as Jewish. The survey also asked people who claimed no formal religious affiliation: “Do you consider yourself to be Jewish for any reason?” Anyone who responded “yes” or “half” was classified as culturally Jewish. An additional 0.8% of Americans identify as culturally but not religiously Jewish. These figures are consistent with other surveys that have found the Jewish population is approximately 2%.

Among Jews under 30, 47% identify as religiously Jewish and 53% identify as culturally Jewish. For Jews 65 or older 78% are religiously Jewish and 22% identify as culturally Jewish. A majority of Jews are women (52%-48%).

Reform is the largest denomination (28%) followed by Conservative (14%), Orthodox (10%) and Reconstructionist (2%). The largest group of Jews, however, claim to be “just Jewish” when asked about their denominational affiliation. Younger Jews are skewing more Orthodox. Only 20% of Jews under the age of 30 are Reform, compared to 15% who identify as Orthodox. Fewer than one in ten (8%) young Jewish Americans affiliate with the Conservative movement, and three percent identify as Reconstructionist. A much larger group – 44% – choose no denomination and say they are “just Jewish.” Older Jews, meanwhile, are far more likely to identify with the Reform movement (35%) than the Orthodox (3%), Conservative (20%) or Reconstructionist (2%) denominations and 34% do not have any affiliation.

Generational Shift in Jewish Denominational Identity

Unitarian-Universalists were the most highly educated religious group in the survey followed by Hindus and Jews. Thirty-four percent of Jews have a post-graduate degree; 61% have a four-year college degree, and only 22% have a high school degree or less. Orthodox Jews are far more likely than Reform Jews to have no more than a high school education (44% vs. 14%).

More than twice as many Jews identify with the Democratic party than the Republicans (47%-20%). Another 28% say they are independents. The differences among the denominations is dramatic, with 59% of Reform Jews and 47% of Conservatives identifying as Democrats, com-pared to only 23% of Orthodox Jews. Thirty-eight percent of Orthodox Jews identify as Republicans and 29% identify as independents. Among all Jews, 45% identify as liberal and 27% as conservative.

Sixty-two percent of Jews are married. Not surprisingly, the highest percentage of married couples – 74% – are Orthodox, compared to 64% of Conservative and 59% of Reform Jews. A large majority (71%) reported they have no children living in their household. Twenty-nine percent of Jewish parents said they have at least three children in their household, but the figures were dramatically different for Orthodox (62%) and Reform (17%) households.

Six percent of LGBT Americans identify as Jewish.

Only 16% of Jews have household incomes of less than $30,000 per year; 30% earn more than $100,000 and 69% own their home. Just under half (47%) of all Jews receive health insurance through an employer; 25% have government-sponsored health insurance.

Source: Robert P. Jones and Daniel Cox, “America’s Changing Religious Identity,” Public Religion Research Institute, (September 6, 2017).