Federation Executive Says Jewish Poverty Figures Exaggerated

The Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, James P. Rice, today described recent public statements that the Jewish poor in the United States number between 400,000 and 1,000,000 as “without any foundation in fact.”

Rice stated that because of the publicity in the press given to statements by representatives of a number of national Jewish organizations, it was necessary to point out that reports of the US Census Bureau, and analysis of the National Jewish Population Study of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, indicate clearly that the Jewish poor number below 300,000.

Rice noted that information available from the US Census Bureau on poverty among persons of Russian origin or descent, most of whom are Jewish, indicates a poverty rate of 4.5 percent, the lowest of any ethnic group in the country. The most recent available reports of the current, but not yet published National Jewish Population Study, of the CJFWF, indicate the Jewish poor number less than 300,000.

The definition of poverty is the same one used by the US government, which means an income of $4,000 or less for a family of four. Rice stressed that one possible reason for confusion about Jewish poverty figures is that while the National Jewish Population Study shows that 17 percent of American Jewish households have an income of $4,000 or less, such units consist in many instances of one or two persons – particularly among the elderly.

“While an income under $4,000 is hardly comfortable for one or two or three persons, it does not constitute poverty in accordance with the government standards,” Rice said. “It was helpful to draw attention to the Jewish poor whose needs are not met adequately even though they are given substantial services by Federation agencies. But the facts should be clear if serious plans are to be made in public and private agencies who carry the responsibility for meeting the needs of the poor.”

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