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2017 Annual Assessment


Israeli emigrants are not a representative segment of the Israeli Jewish population. Despite their demographic and socio-economic diversity, it can generally be stated that they are a positively selected group. First, they are young. In 2014, among those who were continuously abroad for a year or more, 41 percent were aged 20 to 39 while the share of this group among the total population in Israel (“Jews and Others”) was only 27 percent.10 Insights into the composition of native-born Israeli populations in OECD countries shows that the proportion of those aged 25-54 is higher by 14 percent than the proportion of this age group among the native-born Jewish population in Israel – 69 and 55 percent respectively. If classified by major geographical areas, the rate of Israelis aged 25-54 varies from a low of 61.6 percent among those who settled in East Europe to a high of 72.8 percent in Scandinavia (Figure 3.1). The share of those aged 25 to 54 varies even more by country of residence: from 55 percent of those aged 25-54 in New Zealand to as high as 84 percent in Norway.11

In Germany, Israelis are a relatively new group who attracted much public attention. Among adult Israelis there, approximately 80 percent are aged between 18 and 35 while this group constitutes only about a third of the adult Jewish population in Israel12. In other words, among Israelis abroad there is an overrepresentation of young people.

Figure 3.1: Age Composition of Native-Born Israelis Abroad and of Total Jewish Population in Israel (Percentages)

Also, among young Israelis who recently emigrated from the country there is a high proportion of men than women: 59 and 41 percent respectively (as opposed to gender parity among the young Jewish population in Israel).13 For native-born Israelis in OECD countries, the gender ratio is 55 percent male and 45 percent female (Figure 3.2). A significant surplus of men over women was observed in Scandinavian countries (perhaps reflecting a known phenomenon of marriages between Israeli men and Scandinavian women) and among Israelis in East European countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In contrast, the gender ratio in Germany is even. It is interesting to note that about 2 percent of Israelis in Germany indicate their gender as “other.”14

Figure 3.2: Gender Composition of Native-Born Israelis Abroad and of Total Jewish Population in Israel (Percentages)


Some two-thirds of native-born Israelis in OECD countries hold citizenship of their countries of residence (Figure 3.3). Especially high rates were found in English-speaking countries and in West Europe (including Scandinavian countries). Rates of citizenship range from as low as one-fifth in Luxemburg, one-fourth in Germany, approximately one-third in Spain and Portugal, one-half in Austria and Denmark, and reaches eight out of every ten Israelis in Australia, Canada, and Poland.15 We propose three explanations for inter-country variation in citizenship: (1) differences in tenure, whereas a higher proportion of veteran immigrants increases the likelihood of having local citizenship, and vice versa; (2) inter-country differences in criteria for citizenship; and (3) family background, i.e. the offspring of people born in the specific country have an easier process of receiving citizenship.

Figure 3.3: Native-Born Israelis Abroad by Citizenship (Percentages)

Education and Employment

On average, Israelis abroad are well educated. Further, educational attainment improves with prolongation of time in the destination country. In 1980, Israelis aged 20-29 in the United States had an average of 12.4 years of education; a decade later, when they were already 30-39, they had a score of 13.3 years of education; and by 2000, when they were 40-49, their level of education was 14 years.16 This increase partly attests to post-secondary studies in the United States. However, it can also be the result of selective preference to stay in the US of people with higher education which is likely to determine their economic attainment. In contrast, those with lower educational attainment may have preferred to return home and take advantage of their acquaintance with the local labor market, as well as their roots in informal social networks, to find a job and get along financially.

Israel’s so-called brain drain has strengthened over time; the proportion with academic education among more recent immigrants is significantly higher compared to their earlier counterparts. For example, although a 20ll study by Cohen, which relied on data from 2000, found that half of the Israelis in the United States had a bachelor’s degree or higher, findings from the 2013 Pew survey of Jewish Americans showed that 72 percent of the native-born Israelis in the United States had a university diploma (JPPI’s data analysis of the Pew survey). The increasing tendency of Israelis with university education to move abroad is especially salient in respect to destination countries where there is a significant economic premium for the highly educated.17

Figure 3.4: Educational Attainment of Native-Born Israelis Abroad (Percentages)

Israelis abroad are more educated than those remaining in Israel. For example, in 2000, the average years of education of Israelis in the United States was 13.1, as compared to only 11 years among the Jewish population in Israel. Similarly, while 60 percent of the Israelis in Germany have a university diploma this was true for about a quarter of their counterparts in Israel.18 Another figure suggests that 3.7 percent of the native-born Israelis in OECD countries hold a Ph.D. versus less than one percent of the native-born Jewish population in Israel (in similar age cohorts).19

Variations in educational attainment exist by areas of settlement. High levels are particularly prominent among Israelis in English speaking countries including the United States and Canada; in East Europe; and Germany. On the other side, the educational profile of Israelis in Scandinavia and France is low in comparison to Israelis elsewhere in the diaspora.
Also of interest is the high proportion of immigrants with doctorates in Switzerland (one-third of all native-born Israelis there), Italy (12.3 percent), and East Europe (10.4 percent).20 We raise the possibility that this group of Israelis includes a large number of physicians; many Israelis who cannot find places in Israeli medical schools study in countries such as Italy, Romania, Hungary, and perhaps some stay put. However, others are likely to be working as researchers in other scientific fields.

Consistent with education, Israelis abroad are heavily concentrated in white collar occupations. About half of the Israelis in OECD countries work in professional, technical, or managerial occupations. Higher rates than the average were found in Canada, the UK, Australia, France, Switzerland and Germany, while the rates are below the average in the United States (with a small differential) and the Scandinavian countries.21 The rate of Israelis abroad working in white collar positions is about 20 percent higher than among their general host society; this is true for almost all countries, with the exception of Scandinavia. Occupation largely corresponds with earnings, which jointly attest to the economic achievement of Israelis in their new countries.

Figure 3.5: Occupation of Native-Born Israelis Abroad (Percentages)