Intermarried Significantly Less than Half of Jews in U.S. and Canada

Less than half of Jews who marry in the U.S. and Canada are in interfaith marriages.  The rate of intermarriage is currently closer to less than a third and  surely was less than a third when Jewish intermarriage hysteria grew to major proportions in the 1990s.

The common, assumed wisdom is that half of Jews are intermarried in North America.  It’s akin to an act of sacrilege to suggest otherwise.  When the 1997 Los Angeles Jewish Population Survey found that only 41 percent of Jews were intermarried as compared to the 52 percent found in the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, a worried Jewish Federation of North America research director flew in to LA to argue against publication of the relatively low Jewish intermarriage rate coming out of the “unchurched West.”

 Subsequently, the San Francisco Jewish Population Study undertaken in 2004, found 55 percent of Jews had a non-Jewish partner, up from 27 percent in 1986.  In 1990, only an estimated 33 percent in San Francisco, the most liberal western U.S. urban area’s Jews, were in interfaith partnerships.  How did the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey find 52 percent Jewish intermarriage?

The Pew Research Center found in the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey that 31 percent Jews married or living with a partner with a religious background different from their own.

In Canada only 26 percent of Jews applying for marriage licenses in the three years of 2000, 2001 and 2002 were not marrying Jews.

Regardless, countless of recent articles and books, such as Naomi Schaefer Riley’ new book, “‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America,” which was published last month by Oxford University Press are premised on the unproven assumption that half of all Jews are in marriages which are interfaith.  Riley’s main thesis is that Americans like Jews and that makes them desirable, but she seems to assume that Jews don’t.  It’s likely that Jews actually do like each other to a greater extent than is popularly assumed and do see the benefits of marrying another Jew and the majority act on that.


About the Author
Pini Herman, PhD, is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research based in Los Angeles; He specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis; He has been affiliated with the University of Southern California Dept.of Geography, the USC School of Social Work, and served seven years as Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.