JPR News archive
New study of British Jews ‘demolishes popular myths'
Friday 18 May 2007
‘Our understanding of the British Jewish population has been revolutionized’, conclude the authors of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s (JPR) comprehensive analysis of the data on Jews derived from answers to the first ever voluntary question on religion in the 2001 Census. ‘The results have been truly fascinating and mould-breaking.’
The Report, Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census, published today by JPR, lays bare the complexity of the Jewish population and demolishes several popular myths: ‘the Jewish nuclear family, the homogenous Jewish household, the Jewish housewife, the married Jewish couple or the universally successful and prosperous citizen.’
270,499 people in the UK identified themselves as Jewish and revealed themselves to be strikingly heterogeneous: not a single ‘Jewish community’, but a ‘collection of multiple subgroups defined in myriad ways.’ This diversity is a constant theme in almost every feature of the Jewish population.
Antony Lerman, JPR Director, said: ‘We were aware of the diversity of forms of Jewish identity and opinion, but had little idea of the extent of diversity in households, geographical spread, ethnicity, country of birth, housing, mobility, health, education and employment. As the Report’s authors say: “It destroys the illusion of Jewish uniformity.”’
Some of the main points
- There are many types of ‘Jewish household’. More Jews than almost any other religious or ethnic group live in single-person households. This fact, together with the large number of ‘Jewish households’ in which not all members are actually Jewish, forces a rethink of the nature and boundaries of what is called the ‘Jewish community’.
- ‘One of the most surprising features revealed by the 2001 Census is the geographical spread of Jews throughout the country. Jews live in every county and district in Great Britain. . . . The identification of around 20,000 Jews in areas that were regarded as containing very few—for example, Northumbria, Cumbria, , Derbyshire and Warwickshire—and where there are no formal communal facilities, is an issue that policymakers will need to take seriously.’
- British Jews are an ageing group, but ‘the data point to a young, rapidly growing cohort of (strictly Orthodox) Jews who are bucking the trend in a remarkable way.’ This shows that ‘the demographic makeup of British Jewry, and probably its religious structure, will be very different in a generation or so.’
- Jews are no longer mostly an ‘immigrant group’, but even in 2001, nearly 1 in 5 Jews in England and Wales were born outside the British Isles and hailed from almost every other region of the world. The three largest groups were those born in Israel, the United States and South Africa.
- ‘As a group, Jews showed high levels of educational attainment far outranking the national population and all other subgroups. But within the Jewish population there are groups who have not reached even the average Jewish levels of secular education.’
- ‘Jewish women were not only outperforming women in the general population at the highest levels but they were also outperforming men nationally. This dramatic finding reinforces previous studies and is a tribute to the remarkable success of Jewish women in the workplace.’
A striking feature of the report is the complex nature of Jewish partnerships. The traditional notion of the nuclear ‘Jewish family’ is increasingly inaccurate. More appropriate is to speak of the ‘Jewish household’ and its growing diversity: more younger Jews live alone, more couples live together without children and outside marriage, more households contain a mixture of Jewish and non-Jewish members. And the picture is further complicated by the numbers of people who are divorced, separated or remarried.
Although the Census did not report an intermarriage rate, the analysis did reveal that 72% of married or cohabiting Jews had a Jewish partner; 19% had a non-Jewish partner. However, for those who were cohabiting, 68% of all Jewish individuals had a partner who was either not Jewish or had no religion. (Those cohabiting were a tenth of those who were married.)
David Graham, one of the authors and Research Consultant to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, commented: ‘Overall, “intermarriage”—more accurately Jew-to-non-Jew partnerships—is still relatively uncommon. But certain groups, especially cohabitees, show clear signs that strongly suggest change is on the way.’
Living standards/social inequality
The Jewish population enjoyed high living standards, but this was not uniform and significant social inequality was evident. 77% of Jewish households owned their own homes (compared with 69% in the general population), but only 38% in Hackney did so. More than a third of Jewish households in Hackney lived in social rented accommodation, a clear indicator of low levels of affluence, and proportionally 25 times more than in Hertsmere.
In England and Wales, Jews were more likely than the general population to have access to two or more cars, but more than two-thirds of Jews in Tower Hamlets and over half the Jewish-headed households in both Hackney and Newham had no access to a car.
75% of Jews aged 25 years and older were economically active, but 47% in Hackney were economically inactive. Comparing occupations of Jews in two locations: 38% were managers and senior officials in Westminster, 18% in Redbridge; 8% and 23% respectively were in administrative and secretarial occupations; and 1% and 11% worked as process, plant and machine operatives.
The Report highlights the fact that many Jews in Britain see themselves in ethnic or cultural terms. Many thousands chose to describe their ethnicity as Jewish, despite the approach of the Census to ethnicity which is based on appearance and nationality. Thousands more chose ‘White Other’. And a sizeable number preferred to describe their background or ‘upbringing’, rather than their current religion, as Jewish. Those who self-identified as ‘Jews by ethnicity’ were younger, more highly qualified and more likely to be male.
Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census, JPR Report no. 1, 2007, by David Graham, Marlena Schmool and Stanley Waterman.
Printed copies are available from JPR, price £20. Please email email@example.com or call 020 7935 8266.
The report is available from 0900 on Friday 18 May online at www.jpr.org.uk
The following are available for interview about the report:
- Antony Lerman, Executive Director, JPR: direct line +44 (0)20 7563 9422 or mobile +44 (0)7968 162579.
- The authors: David Graham, Research Consultant, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Marlena Schmool, former Director, Community Issues Division, Board of Deputies; Professor Stanley Waterman, former Director of Research, JPR. To be contacted through Judith Russell,Director of Communications, at JPR on (direct line) +44 (0)20 7563 9426, (mobile) +44 (0)7725 858250, (JPR switchboard) +44 (0)20 7935 8266.
The Report was produced with the significant involvement and contribution by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Contact at the Board of Deputies: Winston Pickett, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, office +44 (0)207 543 5400, mobile +44 (0)7932 075625.
Media contacts at JPR
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