Jews Are Migrating South, According to New Figures
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Jews Are Migrating South, According to New Figures

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American Jews are flocking to the Sun Belt and the West Coast, according to updated population estimates contained in the 1989 American Jewish Year Book, published last week by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Publication Society.

Significant increases in 1988 in the Jewish populations of such communities as San Diego and the state of Florida were matched by Jewish population losses of 10 percent or more in many communities in the Northeast and Midwest.

Florida, with 596,100 Jews comprising 5.1 percent of the state’s population, regained the No. 3 spot among the states with the highest concentration of Jews, behind New York and New Jersey and ahead of Massachusetts, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The total Jewish population of the United States in 1988 was estimated at 5,935,000, according to the year book. That figure is down slightly from 1987, but still represents 2.5 percent of the overall U.S. population.

The population findings are contained in an article by researchers at the North American Jewish Data Bank in New York.

Their findings relied primarily on studies by local Jewish community federations, but they warn that population estimating is “not an exact science.” Numbers may be adjusted from year to year, for instance, without there having been a demographic change in a community.

For the latest study, the researchers have adjusted for such factors as the number of non-Jewish spouses or children in a household and the number of part-time residents in a community.

The latter factor is especially important in the Sun Belt, they report, where the number of year-round residents is often over-counted.


But even when the figures are adjusted for the so-called “snowbirds” who summer in the North, the figures on the migration of Jews to the South and West are revealing:

In the San Diego metropolitan area, the Jewish population estimate increased by 33,000 to a total of 70,000 between 1987 and 1988, an 89 percent gain.

The Jewish population in Orange County, Calif., went up 5,000 to 85,000 in the same period.

Florida’s Jewish population went up by nearly 47,000 between 1987 and 1988, representing an 8.5 percent jump. The Florida cities with the most significant increases are Fort Lauderdale, up 31,000 to a total Jewish population of 116,000, and Orlando, up 3,000 to 18,000.

Ten Northeastern and Midwestern communities report Jewish population declines of at least 10 percent between 1987 and 1988. The largest absolute decline by state occurred in New York, with a loss of more than 47,000 Jews.

New York is still on top of the yearbook’s ranking of states with the highest Jewish concentration, with 1,844,000 Jews comprising 10.4 percent of its general population.

“Jewish Population in the United States, 1988” was prepared by Dr. Barry Kosmin, director of the Data Bank; Dr. Paul Ritterband, professor of sociology and Jewish studies at the City University of New York; and Jeffrey Scheckner, administrator for the Data Bank.

The Data Bank was established by the Council of Jewish Federations and Center for Jewish Studies of CUNY.

The 1989 American Jewish Year Book, edited by Dr. David Singer, is available from the Publication Service of the American Jewish Committee.

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