Increasing Numbers of U.S. Jews Continue to Move to the Sun Belt

Continuing a pattern of recent years, the Jewish population of the United States is moving in increasing numbers from the Northeast of the United States to the Sun Belt — the Southern and Western part of the country, with many Southwestern cities reporting gains of more than 2,000 Jews over last year’s figures.

The largest increase was reported by Los Angeles, with a gain of 48,000 Jews over the 1979 figure for a total of 503,000. Other substantial gains were reported in Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Tucson. This trend is demonstrated in demographic reports that appear in the 1981 edition of the American Jewish Year Book. The new edition, Volume 81 in the annual series, has just appeared.

The American Jewish Year Book, the authoritative record of trends and events in Jewish life is published jointly by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Publication Society of America. Its editors are Milton Himmelfarb and David Singer.


Figures on world Jewish population in the Year Book show an increase of 131,150 over the previous year, or a total current world Jewish population of 14,527,150. However, Prof. Leon Shapiro, who compiled the world statistics cautions that “there are no precise data on Jewish population in the various countries. The figures presented represent the best possible estimates … The figures are of varying degrees of accuracy and are subject to substantial margins of error.

Similarly, the authors of the demographic report on Jewish population in the United States, Alvin Chenkin and Maynard Miran, research consultant and associate, respectively, of the Council of Jewish Federations, warn that “some communities conduct formal population studies, others estimate roughly on the basis of lists of known Jewish households.”

Chenkin and Miran forecast that the trend to the Sun Belt is expected to continue as many of the older cities in the Northcentral and Northeast United States “have not yet fully reported their population losses.”


The estimated U.S. Jewish population is 5,920,900 or 2.7 percent of the total population, a modest increase over last year’s figure of 4,860,900. The South and West comprise 31 percent of the total and the Northeast and Northcentral states represent 69 percent of the total Jewish population.

Estimating the Greater New York City metropolitan Jewish population at 1,998,000, a figure that includes the city and three suburban counties, the authors pointed out that “the city proper has probably experienced significant Jewish population loss.” The magnitude of the population shift to New York City suburbs and to areas outside Greater New York is unknown.

Among the Jewish population figures for U.S. cities listed in the Year Book’s tables are: Los Angeles metropolitan area, 503,000; Philadelphia metropolitan area, 295,000; Chicago metropolitan area, 253,000; Miami, 225,000; Boston, 170,000; Greater Washington, 160,000; Bergen County (N.J.), 100,000; Essex County (N.J.), 95,000; Baltimore, 92,000; Cleveland, 75,000; Detroit, 75,000; San Francisco, 75,000.


After the United States, countries with significantly large numbers of Jews are: Israel, 3,254,000; Soviet Union, 2,630,000; France, 650,000; Great Britain, 410,000; Canada, 305,000; Argentina, 300,000; Brazil, 150,000 and South Africa, 118,000.

In Europe, including Asiatic U.S.S.R and Turkey, there are 4,102,350 Jews. In Asia, there are 3,339,810 Jews, in Africa, 173,430, and in Australia-New Zealand, 72,000.

Among the major world cities outside the United States where Jews are located are: Amsterdam, 15,000; Antwerp, 13,000; Brussels, 24,500; Bucharest, 40,000; Budapest, 65,000; Cape Town, 25,650; Glasgow, 13,000; Istanbul, 20,000; Johannesburg, 57,500; Kiev, 170,000; Leeds, 18,000; Leningrad, 165,000; Greater London, 260,000; Lyons, 20,000; Greater Manchester, 35,000. Also, Marseille, 65,000; Melbourne, 32,000; Mexico City, 32,500; Montevideo, 48,000; Montreal, 100,000; Moscow, 285,000; Paris, 300,000; Rio de Janeiro, 55,000; Rome, 10,000; Sao Paulo, 75,000; Strasbourg, 12,000; Sydney, 26,500; Teheran, 50,000; Toronto, 120,000; Vancouver, 14,000; Vienna, 9,000; and Winnipeg, 18,000.