October 1, 2013

A Portrait of Jewish Americans

Sidebar: Making Comparisons with the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS)

The Jewish community in the U.S. has a long tradition of conducting pioneering social scientific research on the size and characteristics of U.S. Jewry. The last major national survey effort undertaken by the U.S. Jewish community to enumerate and describe the Jewish population was the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), sponsored by the United Jewish Communities, predecessor of today’s Jewish Federations of North America.

This report makes a number of rough comparisons between the NJPS and the new Pew Research survey of U.S. Jews. The comparisons are meant to be broadly illustrative of change or continuity over the past decade. But there are many differences between the NJPS and the current study, which means that direct, exact comparisons are not possible. Among other differences, the two studies:

  • Use different questions to identify Jews
  • Use different questions to examine attitudes and demographics, such as intermarriage and child rearing
  • Use different approaches in sampling and in statistically weighting the data

Despite these differences, examining the results of the new survey in light of the NJPS may help to put some of the new findings in context. While a number of surveys (including Pew Research surveys) regularly interview Jews by religion, the NJPS counted other types of Jews (including Jews of no religion), making it a potentially valuable source of comparisons from recent years.

As a result, Pew Research staff, in consultation with experts on the NJPS, have reanalyzed the NJPS data and recategorized some respondents from that survey to obtain as close a match as possible with the analytical categories employed in the new Pew Research survey. This recategorization and reanalysis is why some of the NJPS results cited here differ from the numbers in the NJPS reports published after that study was completed. Even with these efforts to recategorize and reanalyze the NJPS data, however, all comparisons between the two surveys should be made with caution and viewed as approximate.