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Raising Jewish Children: Research and Indications for Intervention

As a group, this generation of contemporary younger Americans is marrying later than the generation of their parents and grandparents, according to numerous previous studies. We may illustrate this trend with reference to almost any local Jewish community study conducted repeatedly over the years (and every such community will differ from a national sample). For example, the Boston Jewish Population Survey conducted every ten years from 1965 onward shows a clear trajectory of declining marriage rates: among 30-39 year olds, 87-88 percent were married in 1965 and 1975, but only 67-69 percent in 1985 and 1995.18 Today, half (50 percent) of non-Haredi American Jews ages 25 to 54 are currently not married, although some have partners.

Table 1
Marital status by age among non-Haredi Jews, 25-54

Total

25-34

35-44

45-54

Married

27%

71%

57%

50%

Living with a partner

16%

8%

5%

10%

Divorced

4%

7%

17%

10%

Separated

1%

4%

1%

Widowed

.

.

3%

1%

Never been married

53%

13%

13%

28%

Even more (at least 53 percent, though possibly as high as 69 percent if we presume that those with partners have never married) have never been married among the youngest group, ages 25 to 34 (which despite advances in medically assisted reproduction treatments are still physiologically the most fertile years). By the time Jews reach their late 40s and 50s, as Table 1 shows, the number who have ever married reaches only 87 percent. Many in the non-Haredi population in recent years have missed the opportunity to marry during the prime childbearing years. Significantly, in our sub-sample, of the married people, 68 percent have children in their households, as compared with just 2 percent of the never married.

Owing to (some) divorce and (a little) widowhood, the percent who are currently married falls somewhat below the number who are ever-married. Thus, at its peak level – which occurs at age 35-44 – just 71 percent are married and 29 percent are currently single/non-married.

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