About Estimates

Latest Release: The latest population estimates are for the year 2015 and were released on September 22, 2016.

Overall, there are 4.2 million adults, or 1.8% of the total US adult population, who identify as Jewish when asked about their religion. Adjustments to account for Jewish adults who do not identify as Jewish when asked about religion and for children results in a total population estimate of at least 7.2 million Jewish adults and children in the United States.

Jewish Population Estimates

The Steinhardt Social Research Institute's American Jewish Population Project (AJPP) utilizes data from nationally representative surveys of the US population to produce estimates of the Jewish population in the continental United States, its states, metropolitan areas, and counties (or groups of counties). Estimates are based on the proportion of US adults who identify their religion as Jewish. Socio-demographic characteristics of the population (age, educational attainment, and race/ethnicity) within each region are also produced. The recent Jewish population survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, A Portrait of Jewish Americans, along with local community studies are used to estimate the number of children and the portion of Jewish adults who do not identify as Jewish by religion. Population estimates are useful for research, policy planning, and as survey controls. As new data are incorporated, estimates are updated, as are analysis models, in ongoing research to improve the estimation process.

The current map is based on a sample of nearly 250 independent samples of the US adult population collected across the years 2008 to 2015. This includes more than 280,000 respondents, of whom nearly 6,000 are Jewish. The surveys represent all available sources of data that are nationally representative of the adult population in the United States and include a standard question about religious identification as part of the survey instrument. A subset of the surveys (215) provide county-level geographic identifiers. Model results are post-stratified to the 2015 population totals using the 2015 Census Population Estimates for counties by age, race, and Hispanic origin. These distributions are adjusted for education using the American Community Survey. See Methodology for detailed information about the methods and sources of data used to create the population estimates.

Estimates include:

We continue to work to improve estimation for metropolitan areas and counties. As data are added, increased sample sizes improve the ability to estimate smaller geographic areas. Estimates can also be improved with the addition of local data.

Total Population

The population numbers displayed on the map represent the portion of the population that is directly estimated through data synthesis, that is, the majority of the population who self-identify as Jewish when asked about religion. The limitation of the data synthesis is that it misses portions of the population, in particular, children and those who might identify culturally, ethnically, or secularly as Jewish but do not identify as Jewish when asked about religion. To know how much the data synthesis underestimates the total population, recent targeted surveys of the population that include assessment of these additional groups are used. There are too few surveys of this sort to be able to establish how reliable the estimates are in terms of reproducibility, but they do provide a general idea of the possible size of these additional groups.

For estimation of the portion of the population who identify as Jewish but not by religion, past surveys have suggested this group ranges from 17% to 27% of the total Jewish population (See Publications for reviews). The Pew Research Center (2013), based on their survey of the Jewish population, reported that there were 5.3 million Jewish adults of whom 1.2 million self-identified as Jewish but not by religion. This would correspond to 23% of the total Jewish population.

Pew's estimate of the number of Jewish adults excluded a substantial number of people who had Jewish parents and whose childhood religion was Jewish, but when asked about religion, rather than saying they were atheist or no religion, indicated that they were "something else" where something else was described as general beliefs in God, spiritual, "secular", or "not practicing". After review and independent coding of all open-ended responses, we revised the definition of this group to include those whose childhood religion was Jewish, had Jewish parentage and described their religion as general beliefs with clearly no affiliation to another organized religious group. This increased the proportion of all Jewish adults who identify as Jewish but not by religion to 25%. (See Methodology for detailed information on the recoding of Pew categories based on open-ended responses.)

For children, the Pew Research Center estimated that approximately 21% of the Jewish population is less than 18 years of age. Applying this proportion to the population described above, the estimated number of children is about 1.5 million. For estimates of smaller geographic areas such as metropolitan areas and counties where local Jewish population surveys had been conducted, these local data rather than the national Pew survey were used to estimate the proportion of children.

Total Jewish Population Estimate: 2015
Adults
Jewish by religion 4,242,000
Jewish not by religion 1,403,000
Total Jewish Adults 5,645,000
Children
Total Jewish children 1,515,000
Total Jewish Population 7,160,000