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Follow-up Study Planned: Pittsburgh Jews Continue to Suffer As a Result of the Recession

April 3, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh United Jewish Federation said that the Federation plans to do some kind of a follow up study to a preliminary survey which indicated that, despite evidence of a rebounding American economy, many Pittsburgh Jews had been badly hurt by the recession and were still suffering.

The spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in a telephone interview, that the preliminary survey was based on 500 replies to a questionnaire prepared by the Federation and distributed to all readers of the Jewish Chronicle.

The spokesman said that through distribution by the Jewish weekly and through other agencies, about 15,000 copies of the questionnaire had been sent out. The spokesman said the Federation understood that the data in the 500 replies could not be considered representative of Pittsburgh’s 50,000 Jews but that those data did give a “feel” of the situation.

Federation officials said that of the 500 Jews who responded to the questionnaire in the two-month period immediately following its distribution at the end of December, data from 466 were used for the preliminary study.


The findings corroborated studies made in other Jewish communities that a new class of poor Jews had emerged which in Pittsburgh included many professionals and businessmen, aged 31 to 60, a group previously considered immune to periodic economic downturns.

One hundred of the 466 respondents listed themselves as currently unemployed, with more jobless men than women and most unemployment prevalent in the 51 to 60 age category. More than half of the jobless are married but only two-thirds of their spouses have jobs. About a third of the jobless have dependent children. Heaviest unemployment is in professional fields; second heaviest is in management and sales.

Less than half receive unemployment insurance or Social Security retirement benefits. More than half get no benefits of any kind. Family and friends provide help to most of the 466 respondents. They are the first to whom unemployed and underemployed Jews turn.

Jewish organizations were rated much more helpful, in general, than state employment offices, and city and community agencies. But the findings showed that the Jewish jobless turn to family and friends before they look for help in the Jewish community. The Chronicle supplement which included the questionnaire, contained assertions that there was no central Jewish communal program for the new poor among Pittsburgh Jews.


The spokesman confirmed that a major reason for the continuing economic hardship in Pittsburgh is that it is the center for one of the “smokestack” industries — steel — which were particularly hard hit by the recession. He said the area still had not seen the kind of recovery widely reported elsewhere in the United States.

He said one plan of the Federation, depending on a better picture of the problem as it has affected Pittsburgh’s new poor Jews, was to try to organize the various Federation agencies now providing help on an unorganized basis and try to develop an overall program with additional financial resources.

The preliminary survey indicated that most of Pittsburgh’s new Jewish poor feel they need help in getting jobs, first and foremost. No more than 14 percent claimed they needed food supplements, utility assistance and mortgage or rent help or cash.


One finding described as surprising was that while more than half of the survey respondents said they felt the Jewish community should provide job help, only 20 percent sought help from within the Jewish community and communal agencies.

Although many seemed reluctant to approach Jewish agencies, the Jewish Chronicle had a healthy response to its offer to run free positions help wanted classified ads. As a community service, the Chronicle offered free ads for those without jobs for the past 18 months. As of the end of the first week last month, the Chronicle received and printed more than 1,000 inquiries.

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