Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jews identify as white, not of color (Matthew Weiner not withstanding)

Matthew Weiner may think Jews are "of color", but most Jews don't appear to agree with him. Since its inception, the GSS has asked respondents about both religious affiliation and racial identification. Among Jews it shakes out as follows (n = 1,195):


This isn't merely a consequence of the perpetual battle between blacks and Jews over who is the most oppressed pushing Jews away from black identification. Since the turn of the millennium, the survey has included a more detailed question about racial identity that includes 16 possible answers rather than the survey's traditional three. Among Jews (n = 361), 95.3% chose "white". And of course some percentage of Jews who identify as non-white trace their ancestry back to places that virtually no one considers white, like Ethiopia.

These results are not the consequence of artificially separating religious Jews from from secular ethnic Jews, either. The following table provides a breakdown by theistic orientation among the Jewish sample referenced above:

On God%ofJews
Uncertain theist49.7
Firm believer32.2

Here, for comparative purposes, is the theistic orientation of those who identify as Protestant or Catholic (n = 15,121):

On God%ofP&C
Uncertain theist26.9
Firm believer70.4

While the assertion that Jews tend to identify as non-white may be the muttering of a madman (and surely of a mad man!), the assertion that the irreligious descendants of Jews tend to consider themselves to be Jewish is a reasonable one.

GSS variables used: RELIG(1-2)(3), GOD(1-2)(3-5)(6), RACE, RACECEN1


Dan said...

It seems that Jews are genetically mostly European.

Which is hardly surprising considering that they look European.

sykes.1 said...

That would be the Ashkenazi Jews specifically. Other Jews have less European blood.

But the issue is how narrowly one defines "white." To some people the term is restricted to Germanic tribes. Some limit it to Indo-Europeans, which would include Iranians, Afghanis, Hindus, most Turks, et al. Others include basically all Caucasians, which means North Africans, Middle Easterners, and many Central Asians.

Audacious Epigone said...

Thanks for that.

Almost half of those who identify as Jewish in the GSS database list "Russian" as their ethnicity, and virtually all of these consider themselves to be white racially.

Anonymous said...


The descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jews (as opposed to Mizrahi Jews) have almost as much southern European admixture as Ashkenazi Jews, but they're a small group. For example, consider early 20th century Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo. There are far more Mizrahi Jews than true Sephardim, but the Sephardi label is often applied to them because they observe the Sephardi liturgical tradition.

bleach said...

I suspect that the addition of the MENA category to the census will have some interesting results.