2016 Houston Jewish Community Study

Sponsor(s): Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Principal Investigator(s): Ira M. Sheskin

Population Estimates:

► 51,000 Jewish persons live in 26,000 Jewish households (at least one adult is Jewish)

 ● Another 12,500 non-Jewish individuals live in these households for a total of 63,700 people in Houston Jewish households in 2016. 

● 1.4% of all households in Houston are Jewish households, an exceptionally low number for a Jewish community which has conducted a random-digit dialed survey (RDD) since survey research costs increase exponentially as the proportion of Jewish households in a community decreases.

► In 1986, 33,600 Jewish persons were estimated to live in Greater Houston, with an increase of 52% to the 51,000 Jews in 2016.

NOTE: The 1986 Houston Jewish Community study utilized a RDD-based design (appropriate for 1986) and is comparable to the 2016 design, even though the sampling design, weighting, estimation procedures are different in 2016.  The 2001 Houston study was a List-only survey, which was not used for comparisons with the 2016 results.


Key Findings:


► 51,000 Jewish persons live in 26,000 Jewish households (where at least one adult is Jewish).

● Another 12,500 non-Jewish individuals live in these households for a total of 63,700 people in Houston Jewish households in 2016.

● In 1986, 33,600 Jewish persons were estimated to live in Greater Houston, with an increase of 52% to the 51,000 Jews in 2016.

Place of Birth:

25% of Jewish household adults were born in Houston and another 10% elsewhere in Texas; 15% of adults were born in New York and another 15% were born outside the US.

Diversity (with some overlap of the numbers below):

► 2,500 Jewish Hispanic adults reside in Houston, 6% of all Jewish adults.

► 3,700 Israelis (9% of Jewish adults) live in Houston.

► 5,700 Jewish adults (13%) consider themselves to be Sephardic Jews.

► 3,200 people in Houston Jewish households live in Former Soviet Union households.

► 10% of all households include a LGBT individual, a high percentage compared to most Jewish communities in the US.


Greater Houston is an older, better educated and wealthier Jewish community than it was in 1986.

► Age: the current median age of 50 years compares to 32 years in 1986.

● The percentage of the population age 65 and over increased from 8% in 1986 to 25% in 2016, from 3,400 to 16,000 adults. The number of persons age 75 and over increased from 1,000 in 1986 to 6,000 in 2016.

● However, only 17% of Jewish seniors live alone compared to 34% in 1986.

► Education: the percentage of Jews (age 25 and over) with a four-year college degree increased by approximately 20 percentage points to 79% in 2016.This compares to about 29% for all Americans. 

► Income: median Jewish household income increased from $93,000 in 1986 to $121,000 in 2016 (adjusted for inflation). The $121,000 median income compares to $57,000 for all US households.

● However, almost 4% of Houston Jewish households report incomes that place them under the Federal poverty level.


► 39% of married couples are intermarried in 2016, compared to 30% in 1986.

► 15% of intermarried couples belong to synagogues in 2016 compared to 37% in 1986.

► 52% of children with intermarried parents are not being raised Jewishly while 32% are being raised fully as Jews and 16% partially as Jews.

Jewish Connections:

► Denominational identification of Jewish households is Reform 37%, Conservative 24%, Orthodox 4%, Reconstructionist 1%, and Just Jewish 33%; the Just Jewish identification is significantly increased from 1986.

► 97% of Jewish respondents are proud to be Jewish and 83% have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people (numbers relatively similar to the Pew 2013 survey results).

► Jewish Rituals and Affiliation: compared to approximately 55 other Jewish communities in the US, Greater Houston has average levels of home religious practice and synagogue membership; and, Houston reflects national patterns of decreased organizational connections over time.

● Synagogue membership decreased from 51% of households in 1986 to 44% in 2016; on the other hand, 66% of households participated in some sort of activity at a synagogue in 2016; Jewish Community Center membership decreased from 24% in 1986 to 19% in 2016, but 42% participated in a JCC activity.

● 19% participated at Chabad.

● Chanukah candle lighting is reported by 69% of Jewish households (below average nationally) and Seder attendance is reported by 71% always or usually (about average).

Thus, 90% of households are involved Jewishly in some way (at least one home ritual practice, and/or synagogue membership/attendance, etc.).

 ► Christmas trees are found in 35% of Houston Jewish households (19% always and 4% usually and 12% sometimes), the second highest percentage of comparison communities where this question was asked.  

 ● Among intermarried Jewish households, 85% report having a Christmas tree.


10,200 children reside in all Houston Jewish households, in-married and intermarried:

 ● 7,800 are being raised as Jews or partly as Jews, while 2,400, 24%, are not being raised Jewishly).

● 1,000 Jewish children attend a Jewish preschool, representing about two-thirds of Jewish-raised preschoolers.

● 800 children age 5-12 and 500 children age 13-17 are in a Jewish day school.

● 75% of Jewish-raised children receive some formal Jewish education.

● 59% of children who went to a day camp and 75% of children who went to an overnight summer camp went to a Jewish day camp or overnight camp this past summer.


►The Houston Jewish community has strong connections to Israel.

● 59% of households have at least one member who has visited Israel, including 31% with a Jewish group, the highest of approximately 35 comparison Jewish communities.

● 12% of households with children have sent at least one child to Israel, average among 35 comparison Jewish communities. Cost is an obstacle to sending children to Israel.

● The percentage of respondents who are extremely or very attached to Israel (49%) is average among approximately 35 comparison Jewish communities.

 Anti-Semitism: an important issue for Jewish Houston:

● While lower than 30 years ago, 15% of respondents experienced anti-Semitism in Greater Houston in the past year (in West Houston, 26% of respondents experienced anti-Semitism).

● 28% of children experienced anti-Semitism in the past year, well above average among approximately 30 comparison Jewish communities.

● 43% of respondents perceive a moderate/great deal amount of anti-Semitism in Greater Houston, average among approximately 30 comparison Jewish communities.

 ► Philanthropy:  Houston Jews are charitable: 

 ● 92% of all households report a charitable contribution in 2016, including 82% to a non-Jewish charity.

● 39% of Jewish households reported a contribution to the Jewish Federation in the year preceding the survey, compared to 47% in 1986 (again reflecting national patterns of decreased Federation contributions).

● 63% report a Jewish charitable contribution of some kind; in addition to Federation, another 24% who did not contribute to the Federation report contributions to a different Jewish charity.

Social Services:

● 16% of households contain a health-limited member, average among approximately 45 comparison Jewish communities.

● Significant percentages of households need marital, family or personal counseling and job counseling. In addition, they need help coordinating services for an elderly person.

● Among households age 75 and over, the greatest need is for in-home health care, followed by senior transportation.

Political Party Identification:

● 31% of Jewish respondents identify as Republicans, the highest reported in any community study that included a political affiliation question, and much higher than the 13% of American Jews reported in the Pew 2013 study.

● 41% identify with Democrats, 24% as independents and 4% have other political party attachments.


1,200 interviews completed by SSRS of Media, PA (formerly ICR).

An initial set of 1,000 completed interviews with a member of a Jewish household was completed between February 23, 2016 and April 10, 2016.

When the first wave of interviews was completed, several geographic sub-areas of interest to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston did not have sufficient interviews for detailed analysis.  Thus, an additional wave of 200 interviews were completed from June 24 to July 14, 2016.

Sample Size: 1,200

Sample Notes:

DataBank users should download and read the Methodology Report written by David Dutwin, Susan Sherr and AJ Jennings of SSRS which describes the study sample design, data collection procedures, weighting and response rates in detail.  

● The methods discussions are on pages 1-18 of the Methodology Report.  The methodology report also includes the SSRS CATI versions of the Screening Questions used by SSRS (pages 19-22) and the Survey Questionnaire used by SSRS (with details on skip patterns for interviewers) is on pages 23-82.  

● The Questionnaire was drafted by Dr. Sheskin; his version of the questionnaire was designed for study committee members to review; it is a separate download, but is also available in the second volume of the Main Report.

Chapter 2 of the Main Report also summarizes the 2016 survey methodology, with minimal technical details.

Sample Design:

The 2016 Houston Jewish Community Study utilized sampling, estimation and weighting design utilized in many of SSRS's previous Jewish community studies.  Details of the design are well described in the methods pages. The design combines interviews from complementary sampling frames: a List sampling frame from the Jewish Federation, a DJN (distinctive Jewish names) sample not on the Federation list, landline and cell phone RDD (with List and DJN numbers deduplicated), plus a special sub-sample of non-local cell phone numbers (see report for details).   

Response Rates:

The response rate (AAPOR3) for the survey was 44.7%, and the cooperation rate (AAPOR3) was 85.7%; both measures indicate a quality study.  

● The response rate from the landline frame was 46.1% while the cell phone response rate was 35.1%. 

● Table 5 in the methods report summarizes the sample disposition from all sampling frames.  A total of 381,777 calls were made to complete the project, with 105,629 different numbers called after MSG-GENESYS's scrubbing for non-working numbers (mostly from the RDD frames); see Table 5 and discussion for details. 

Estimation and Weighting

A total of 12,022 completed screening questionnaire - Jewish and non-Jewish respondents - were used by SSRS to estimate the number of Jewish households in the Greater Houston study area.

Initial weights were built into the data file based on screening data, then the data were post-stratified to correct for the likelihood of over-responding among older respondents, etc., using a balanced weighting system commonly utilized by survey research firms. Details in methods report.

After post-stratification, the study design effect was estimated at 2.67.



Study Notes:

Downloadable materials from the Houston 2016 study are voluminous, so DataBank users are advised to review PDFs before printing.

● The 8-page brief Summary Handout (the "Initial Report') is the first document under Survey Reports and provides a brief, useful overview of survey results.

● The Summary Report by Dr. Sheskin, approximately 145 pages, provides the most extensive, yet concise, summary of survey results.  The Major Findings section on pages 1-9 of the report (pages 8-17 of the PDF) summarizes survey results efficiently. 

● The two volumes of the Main Report provide the most extensive analysis of the Houston 2016 Jewish community survey.  Volume 1 has chapters 1-7 (518 pages) while Volume II has 448 pages, including a copy of the survey questionnaire, which is separately downloadable under "Documentation." In general, these volumes are often used by DataBank users as a source book of survey results when specific topics from the survey are being explored. 

● The Community-Wide slide presentation includes almost 240 slides, and provides an excellent overview of the study results, with minimal methodological description.  A video of the community-wide presentation of the survey results is available for viewing at the Federation study webpage. 

.Multiple other slide presentations are available for downloading via the DataBank.  

● One set of slides provides data that reflects the content of the Main Report's two volumes on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  

● Another series of slides reflects multiple presentations made by Dr. Sheskin summarizing survey results. Most of these presentations include additional slides not in the community-wide presentation, but also include many slides in the community-wide document. Many of these slide shows for specific audiences are also over 100-150 slides.

● The Survey Questionnaire and Screening Questions are downloadable in the format that Dr. Sheskin used to review the questionnaire with the study committee.


DATA FILE:  The Data File for the survey for the survey is downloadable in both SPSS SAV and SPSS POR (portable format).

► An SPSS SAV file is the file most likely to be used by researchers working in SPSS.

● The file has 1,200 cases and 768 variables, with variable "wf" (v373) as the default weight.  Wf is a household weight that extrapolates to 26,001 Jewish households when all cases are included; variable "balHHwgtD3" (v372) will provide the same percentage distribution as "wf," but has been adjusted to an N of 1,200 for use with statistical tests of significance which are sensitive to sample size.  

•  Five additional weight-related variables are available at the end of the data file (v764-v768). These allow projection of survey results to all people in the Houston Jewish community (v765, "wtpeople") or to all adults (v767, "wtadults") in the community.  See the description for each of these weight-related calculations in variable labels 

● Two of Dr. Sheskin's syntax files for SPSS SAV analysis are also downloadable; they provide details on data file transformations and chapter-by-chapter analyses.

► An SPSS POR file is also available for researchers who do not use SPSS but can import data into their software analysis systems with a POR file.

Coverage: Harris County and additional zip codes in Greater Houston

Language: English