AJC 2016 Report on Latino Jews in the United States

Sponsor(s): American Jewish Committee (AJC), Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs

Principal Investigator(s): Latino Decisions

Population Estimates:

An AJC-commissioned analysis by Latino Decisions of available data on Latino Jews in the United States estimated that approximately 227,700 Latino Jewish adults reside in the U.S, relying upon available estimates from the Brandeis/Steinhardt Social Research Institute/Cohen Center's American Jewish Population Project.

Five major tables in the 2016 "Findings and Challenges..." report summarize the results of the Latino Decisions analysis. Please note that the total number of Jews in the United States is reported as 4,298,000 in these tables, apparently using the Brandeis estimates for "core" Jewish adults who are Jewish-by-religion (the "core" Jewish adult population is noted as 5.7 million earlier in the report).

• Table 1 indicates that there are 4,298,00 Jewish adults in the U.S., of whom 227,000 are [adult] Latino Jews, 5.3% of the U.S. estimate.  State-by-state estimates are also presented in Table 1, organized by the size of the Latino Jewish community.

• Table 2 organizes the 4.3 million Jewish adults by the top 25 counties in the U.S.  

• Table 3 summarizes county distributions within states with Latino Jewish populations of 50,000 or more.

• Table 4 summarizes the estimated distribution by county of Latino Jewish adults for states with an estimated 8,000-12,500 Latino Jews (including Texas, New Jersey and Illinois).

• Table 5 summarizes county distributions of adult Latino Jews for states with much lower Latino Jewish population estimates.


Key Findings:

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and AJC's Arthur and Rochelle Balfour Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs issued two reports in April 2016 that focused on Latino Jews in the United States.  These two reports continued the American Jewish Committee's studies of Latino Jews which includes an earlier (2011) AJC/Latino Decisions study of Latino attitudes towards U.S. Jews.

The first reports released in 2016 summarized the results of ten focus group interviews with 63 Latino Jewish participants which had been conducted from September 1, 2015 through October 21, 2015.  The focus groups were held in the Miami metropolitan area, Metropolitan Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Houston. Reflecting migration patterns to the U.S. and Latin American economic and political issues, two-thirds of the focus group participants were born in Argentina, Mexico or Venezuela and 13% had been born in the U.S.A.  The focus group report highlights several interesting and significant findings from the focus group discussions, including an exploration of Latino Jewish identity.

The second report, issued in April, 2016, "Findings and Challenges in Contemporary Research on the Latino Jewish Population in the United States" focused on quantitative estimates of the Latino Jewish population.  This "Findings and Challenges..." report surveyed the existing literature on Latino Jews in the U.S., summarizing the existing estimates of Latino Jews and describing multiple challenges facing researchers interested in this growing group of American Jews.  

Among the issues for Berman Jewish DataBank users to consider when reviewing the quantitative estimates of Latino Jews in the U.S. are: (1) the definition of Jewish ("core" JBR or "expanded") used in the AJC report, and (2) the impact of restricting data analysis and population estimates to Latino Jewish adults only and not including Jewish children in Latino Jewish households, (3) differing research definitions of Latino Jews and Hispanic Jews (see the DataBank discussion under Study Notes below, and (4) comparisons with other sources of data - -  when available.   

For comparison purposes, please see the summary Table 4-9 in the 2016 Houston Jewish Community Study's main report on "Hispanic Jews" for estimates of the number of Jews in several Jewish community studies, including New York, Houston, Miami and Broward County.  On the other hand, the AJC report estimates for the Los Angeles Latino Jewish population are available from the Brandeis data and not from the Jewish community survey report for Los Angeles, 1997.  

Study Notes:

The AJC 2016 report on Latino Jews in the U.S. was designed to assist the Jewish community and researchers on Jewish identity in expanding the knowledge base in an area with considerable complexity.  The report identified "... key findings, population estimates, and challenges in the nascent research on Latino Jews in the U.S."

As the report noted, "The study of Latino Jews in the U.S. presents researchers with unique methodological and empirical challenges. Quantitative and qualitative researchers alike must contend with small population size, in-group diversity (such as national origin and language preference), and different approaches to conceptualizing Jewish identity in the United States."

Among the challenges noted in the report is the relative paucity of available data on Latino Jews. For example, among national studies of American Jews, the report noted that the 2013 Pew Survey of Jews in the United States interviewed 3,475 total respondents but those interviews included only 79 Latino Jews, while the 2015 AJC Survey of American Jews had 1,031 total respondents but only 31 Latino Jews.  Even in studies restricted to Latino respondents, the number of Jewish respondents was quite small.  The 2014 Latino Decisions Election Eve Poll of 5,013 respondents included only 21 who were Jewish, and the 2012 Pew National Survey of 1,765 Latino respondents included only 14 who were Jewish.

After the AJC/Latino Decisions report identified many of the challenges in this nascent research field, they concluded: 

Lack of data is the biggest challenge to conducting rigorous statistical analysis on Latino Jews in the United States. No national dataset has enough Latino Jewish respondents to determine what the demographic profile of this population is in terms of Latino origin, nativity, language ability, citizenship status, education, income, generations in the United States, age, or income. There is no empirical basis to determine what a representative sample of Latino Jews looks like; the data do not exist.

Given the minimal data on Latino Jews in the U.S., among the report's recommendations for future research was that while "...a large sample survey of Latino Jews in the United States is not immediately feasible, questionnaire development should be underway."

Latino Jews and Hispanic Jews

Berman Jewish DataBank users should note that the AJC/Latino Decisions report focused on Latino Jews, while some recent studies by Ira Sheskin and SSRS in Broward County (FL) and Houston focus on "Hispanic" Jews (see the quick summary of estimates of the number of Hispanic Jews from several Jewish community studies on page 104 of the Houston Main Report, vol. 1, at the DataBank).  The community studies ask whether the respondent identities as Hispanic, not just country of birth.

In the Focus Group report, the topic of Latino Jewish identity is qualitatively explored among the 63 focus group participants (ten groups).  Figure 6 on page 7 of the focus group report summarizes participants by birth country and by Latin origin/ancestry, a nuance that would be important for quantitative estimates of Latino Jews in the future. Among all participants, 30% had been born in Mexico but 37% of all participants were Latino by origin; 17% had been born in Argentina, while 22% were Argentine by ancestry.

In addition, Figure 7 on page 8 of the focus group report presents the results of exploring Jewish and ethnic identity by asking focus group participants "Which of the following terms do you identify with?" [multiple answers accepted].  

• 95% of the respondents identified as Jewish,

• 69% as being from a Latin origin country,

• 51% as Latin American,

• 44% as Latino,

• 34% as Hispanic, and

• 31% as American.

Thus, as the field of research among American Jews identified in the AJC/Latino report develops, basic conceptual definitions of the population being discussed may need to be clarified.  For example, the AJC/Latino Decisions focus group report notes that:

"Sergio DellaPergola's global demographic research indicates that Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America, and has also seen a large share of this population relocate to South Florida due to economic crisis, particularly in the late 1990's
and early 2000's....These factors account for the notable presence of Argentines in the focus groups."

Local community studies, and future national studies, might profitably explore the issues involved in Latino Jewish identify.  Perhaps many Argentine Jewish ex-patriots may view themselves as Latino Jews, but not as Hispanic Jews.

Language: English