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We embark on a new analysis of the Your Answers Matter survey.
As a reminder, the survey was disseminated to as many Jewish Pittsburghers as possible, but it is categorically NOT a statistically-accurate representative sample of Jewish Pittsburgh. For that very reason, we have found that the most valuable way to glean information is to look at comparative data, i.e. how different categories of respondents answered the same question. Previously, we broke down the answers by respondents’ geographic residence. In this series, we’ll look at household finances as the constant and individuals’ attitudes toward the community as the variables.
Before applying any cross-tabulation, we can look at the basic response to the question that will serve as our barometer.
For the purposes of this post, we have merged the two categories on both bookends so “cannot make ends meet” and “just managing to make ends meet” have been combined as have “have some extra money” and “well off.”
The question we’d like to answer is: (How much) Does household income play a role in connecting to the Jewish community?
This chart tells us that 51.2% of all respondents who said that they “have extra money” or are “well off” felt “a lot” connected to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh while just 42.0% of respondents who are comfortable and 40.0% of respondents who are “just managing” or “cannot make ends meet” feel “a lot” connected.
At an initial glance, this seems stark. People from households of higher incomes feel more connected than those in households of lower incomes. However, much of the research behind this survey question combines the categories of “a lot” and “some” (and of “only a little” and “not at all”). Viewed in this way, the chart looks as follows, which does not provide as striking a contrast.
Though the chart makes it clear that respondents in lower-income households answered more negatively than those in higher-income households, the disparity between those with extra money and those who are comfortable is negligible.
Moving on to a different question, the survey asked whether or not respondents felt connected to the community regardless of their observance.
Respondents from higher-income households were 7% more likely than those in “comfortable” households to answer that they felt they could be as Jewish as they wish and still feel a part of the community. This figure – 86.7% – is significantly higher than the percentage of respondents from lower-income households who answered the question the same way. On the opposite end, 12.4% of respondents from lower-income households said they could NOT be as Jewish as they wish and still feel part of the community while only 6.0% percentage of comfortable households and 4.3% of higher-income households felt similarly.
Complicating the argument that higher-income households are more likely to feel a strong connection to the Jewish community, 84.1% of higher-income households answered that they felt their Jewish religious and spiritual needs can be satisfied, while 80.4% – an insignificant difference – of “comfortable” households and 71.8% – a more severe difference – of lower-income households answered the same.
Perhaps, then, the hypothesis should focus on lower-income households: Lower-income households are less likely to feel a strong connection to the community. Looking further:
In households that cannot – or are just managing to – make ends meet, 17.2% of respondents disagreed with the statement that it is easy to get involved in Jewish life as a newcomer. Only 13.0% of comfortable households and 9.2% of higher-income households answered similarly.
Of all the charts, this was the most striking:
That household income impacts whether or not synagogues are welcoming is simply not intuitive. However, only 65.5% of respondents from lower-income households answered that they felt that synagogues were welcoming. While it stands to reason that we should take very seriously the disparity between how respondents with varying financial backgrounds feel about the Jewish community, it is important to take into account how severe that disparity truly is. The next graph in this post provides evidence that, overall, the community provides a warm environment for all of its members, regardless of their financial status.
Overall, the overwhelming majority of respondents feel proud that they are Jewish and from Pittsburgh, and the 7% margin that separates those in lower-income households and those in higher-income households is perhaps more encouraging than not.