Fertility matters more to Jewish sustainability than marriage: new report

Nearly 70% of secular Jews in the US and almost 50% in Europe are married to non-Jews, but that is not the key problem for the Jewish future, according to a new study of intermarriage.

Two out of every five Diaspora Jews are married to a non-Jew, though rates of assimilation vary widely with two European countries representing the extremes: Poland has the highest rate of intermarriage and Belgium the lowest.

These are some of the findings of a special report on intermarriage published on Tuesday by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. “Intermarriage of Jews and Non-Jews: The Global Situation and its Meaning” compares mixed-marriage rates in different countries, while examining the impact of assimilation on the ability of the Jewish people to sustain themselves. The report is based on existing data consolidated for the first time in one publication.

Among its key findings is that fertility rates are a more important determinant of Jewish population growth trends than assimilation rates. In other words, even in countries where assimilation rates are rising, if Jewish fertility rates are high, the Jewish population should be able to sustain itself and grow.

“In this day and age, it would be imprecise, or even incorrect, to see intermarriage as “the threat” to Jewish demographic sustainability,” writes Daniel Staetsky, a senior research fellow at the institute and author of the report. “Things are not as simple as that. It may have been different in the past, but today, the main threat is low fertility.”

Proportion of adult married Jews with a non-Jewish partner (Institute for Jewish Policy Research)
Proportion of adult married Jews with a non-Jewish partner (Institute for Jewish Policy Research)

The report also found that, contrary to popular belief, the intermarriage rate in the US – home to the largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel – is not exceptionally high when compared with other countries. In fact, according to the report, intermarriage rates were falling among young Jewish Americans – though that is because religious Jews, who are much less likely to intermarry, tend to have more children. Their share among the younger generation has, therefore, been growing.

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Real threat to Jewish sustainability is not necessarily intermarriage, new report finds (Haaretz)

Full report: Intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews: the global situation and its meaning (Institute for Jewish Policy Research)