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Economic advancement, the availability of birth control, and rising educational achievement caused Jewish fertility to start dropping as long ago as the middle of the 19th century in Europe and later in other modernizing societies like the United States.Nor, as is well known, is the phenomenon limited to Jews, or to the U.To explain this fact, the demographer Frank Mott has pointed to the extraordinary rates of educational achievement among Jewish women, who spend significantly more time than their Gentile peers in programs of higher learning.For many of them, still more childless years follow as they work to advance their careers.Even before this, however, demographers had come to an impasse over whom to count as part of the Jewish population ― a question necessitated by the increasingly porous nature of American society and the country's generally high rates of intermarriage.
Smith's study also makes plain why the Jewish age structure has become so skewed.
The most recent National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), conducted under the auspices of the federations of Jewish philanthropies in the years 2000-01 with guidance from a stellar team of scholars, was blemished by a series of polling mishaps.
Damagingly, the survey stretched out over a two-year period, some data were lost, and some respondents were never asked the full battery of questions.
On the basis of the consensus figure of 5.5 million, the Jewish population of the United States has, at best, remained static for the past 50 years, despite the influx during that same period of at least a half-million Jewish immigrants. Entitled ewish Distinctiveness in America: A Statistical Portrait, it marshals considerable evidence for the relatively advanced age of the American Jewish population.
If there is debate over absolute numbers, there is far wider agreement on the patterns of behavior within the Jewish population ― behavior confirmed by dozens of community studies and separate opinion polls. First, in terms of median age, Jews are seven years older than other Americans. Among religious groups, only liberal Protestants exceed Jews in this regard; among ethnic groups, only Americans of British ancestry do.