The Great Recession and American Jews: Evidence from Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland

Sponsor(s): Berman Jewish DataBank@The Jewish Federations of North America

Principal Investigator(s): Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz

Key Findings:

The Great Recession that started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 was the deepest economic downturn in the United States since the Great Depression.  Though the recession has been officially over for nearly five years, the subsequent recovery has been sluggish, fitful and incomplete.

In the Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland Jewish communities, widespread economic and communal effects emerged during the economic crisis.  Substantial numbers of Jewish households reported diminished financial status, lost jobs, reduced income and salaries, and overall negative impacts as a result of the recession.  They also reported significant constraints on communal participation, including synagogue membership, sending children to Jewish preschools and summer sleep-away camps, and making donations to Jewish causes.

Education, household composition and marital status emerged as the most important factors dividing households’ experiences during the recession, with low-education households, single-parent households and divorced, separated and widowed respondents faring the worst. Age, nativity, gender and Jewish characteristics had less direct and consistent links to recession-related experiences across the three communities.

These findings come from secondary analysis of local Jewish community studies conducted in  Baltimore (2010), Chicago (2010) and Cleveland (2011) in the aftermath of the Great Recession.  Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland Jews and Jewish households do not necessarily represent all American Jews, and strictly speaking, each study only represents the Jewish population in its locale. However, in the absence of national data on how the recession affected American Jews, the Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland studies are the first and as of now best sources of data about the experiences of  American Jews during the Great Recession.

The report is organized in terms of the (1) negative economic effects on Jewish households, (2) constraints on participation in Jewish communal life, and (3) differences in recession experiences across households defined by education, household composition, marital status, age, nativity gender, denomination, in-marriage/intermarriage status, and the balance of Jews and non-Jews in the household.

Two versions of the monograph are available for downloading on the right: (A) an eight-page text-only version and (B) a text and tables version which has the eight pages of text followed by 31 pages of data tables.  The tables are provided for interested readers but are not necessary to follow the text-only version.





The report is based on secondary analysis of merged data from local Jewish community studies in Baltimore (2010), Chicago (2010) and Cleveland (2011).  The three studies were completed within a thirteen-month time frame of each other.  Interviewing for Baltimore and Chicago occured from March, 2010 through June, 2010, within a year after the Great Recession officially ended.  Interviewing for the Cleveland study was completed from March though June, 2011, a year after the Baltimore and Chicago studies.  Methodological information for each study can be found on their Berman Jewish DataBank study pages (links provided above).

Sample Notes:

The Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland Jewish community studies were all completed by Jewish Policy and Action Research (JPAR), a strategic alliance between Ukeles Associates, Inc. (UAI) and Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS).  Sample design, interviewing, Jewish household and population estimation, post-stratification and weighting, and many questions were consistent across the three studies.

Study Notes:

This monograph was partially supported by a Berman Research Fellowship provided by the Berman Institute - North American Jewish Data Bank at the University of Connecticut to Dr. Kotler-Berkowitz.  Subsequently, the North American Jewish Data Bank was renamed the Berman Jewish DataBank and management was moved to The Jewish Federations of North America, where Dr. Kotler-Berkowitz is Senior Director of Research and Analysis and Director of the Berman Jewish DataBank.



Language: English