Pew survey indicates greater Orthodox growth, non-Orthodox decline

NEW YORK (JTA) — The rate at which America’s Orthodox Jewish population is growing — and the non-Orthodox population is shrinking — is more dramatic than previously thought, according to Pew Research Center survey data.

In a finding first reported Tuesday in the Forward, Steven M. Cohen, a Jewish sociologist, parsed the data from the center’s recent survey of American Jews to show that 27 percent of Jews younger than 18 live in Orthodox households, a sizable increase from Jews aged 18-29, where only 11 percent are Orthodox.

Previously published Pew data did not indicate the proportion of Jewish children in Orthodox homes, the Forward reported, and instead suggested that growth among the Orthodox was tempered by high dropout rates.

For every 100 Orthodox Jewish 50-year-olds, there are 230 Orthodox 10-year-olds, Cohen told JTA. Meanwhile, for every 100 non-Orthodox 50-year-olds, there are 70 non-Orthodox 10-year-olds.

“The Orthodox are moving in one direction and the non-Orthodox in the other direction,” he said, adding that the shift is “equally a function of birth rate and intermarriage.”

Orthodox Jews have far more children on average and intermarry at much lower rates than non-Orthodox Jews.

“We knew from [New York’s Jewish community study in 2012] that the Orthodox were increasing, and I’d been predicting a population decline for the non-Orthodox, but we just had never seen direct evidence of it,” Cohen said. “This is powerful.”

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