Fig. 1

The chosen people choose

By Lydialyle Gibson

Graphic by Allen Carroll

Vastly outnumbered in a mostly Christian—and religiously fluid—society, many American Jews worry about dwindling numbers and a diluted identity. But Tom W. Smith, PhD’80, director of the University-based National Opinion Research Center, has found Jews’ retention rate overall to be 76 percent; for major Protestant denominations that number lies between 16 and 60 percent. Jews do lose believers, though, in part because of intermarriage. At 81 percent for pre–baby boomers, religious homogamy fell to 47 percent for late baby boomers.

In his February study for the American Jewish Committee, Smith analyzed data from the General Social Survey, conducted between 1972 and 2006. Among Jews ages 30 to 54, religious stability—the percentage raised and remaining Jewish—declined over time. For those younger than 30 or 54 and older, religious stability was unchanged. For all ages, the loss-to-gain ratio, measuring lapses against converts, narrowed.

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