The Jewish community in Pittsburgh is relatively affluent overall, but not all Pittsburgh Jewish households are affluent.
According to the most recent community study (2002), one in five Jewish households in Pittsburgh had an income of $25,000 or lower. In 2002, there were roughly 20,000 Jewish households in Pittsburgh, which means that about 4,000 Jewish households were considered low-income. According to a 2009 study of the entire city of Pittsburgh, 28.1% of all residents were living below the poverty level.1
The following metrics reflect service provided under Jewish auspices to Jews as well as others in need.
|FY2017||FY2016||FY2015||FY2014||FY2013||FY2012||Net Change||Percent Change|
|Number of clients served by food pantries under Jewish auspices||1,826||2,998||2,865||1,747||1,281||1,209||(1,172)||(39.0%)|
|Total pounds of food distributed by food pantries under Jewish auspices||248,132||289,614||312,286||245,864||209,208||238,593||(41,482)||(16.7%)|
|Number of clients served through career counseling services at a Jewish organization||1,657||1,713||1,452||1,038||1,129||1,245||(56)||(3.2%)|
|Percentage of clients placed in a job through career counseling services at a Jewish organization||87%||85%||84%||85%||75%||70%||3.5%|
|Average time to get a job through career counseling services at a Jewish organization||3.25 months||4.25 months||4.5 months||4.5 months||4.5 months||5.5 months||4 weeks||23.5%|
For the US Jewish community as a whole, high educational attainment has made the community collectively much more affluent than Americans overall. In Pittsburgh, however, the Jewish community’s high rate of college education has made Pittsburgh’s Jews only slightly more affluent than the community around them. Among those who responded to the question about income, one-in-three (33%) households have total income of $100,000 per year or greater, including 14% whose household income was $200,000 per year or greater (Table 8.1). On the lower end of the spectrum, 37% indicate their household income was less than $50,000 per year, including 17% with household incomes less than $25,000 per year. By contrast, data from the US Census Bureau indicate that only 5% of all households in the five-county study area have annual income of $200,000 or greater, and 46% have annual income less than $50,000, including 23% under $25,000.
The estimates of the proportions of Jewish households in each income bracket have not changed significantly from 2002. In both studies, similar proportions of Jewish households reported annual income of $100,000 or above (32% in 2002; 33% in 2017), and similar proportions reported income below $50,000 (38% in 2002; 37% in 2017). It is difficult to know whether these numbers are similar because income increases tended to occur within income brackets, or whether they reflect general stagnation of middle class wages. The shifting demographics of the community, with an increase in young adults since 2002, may also have resulted in a similar overall income profile today.
Table 8.1 Household income(% of households)
Income (of responding households) Jewish households All households $200,000+ 14 5 $150-199,999 5 5 $100-149,999 14 14 $75-99,999 20 13 $50-74,999 10 18 $25-49,999 20 23 Less than $25,000 17 23
The survey also asked respondents to indicate their self-perceived standard of living (Table 8.2). Overall, one-third (33%) of the community describes itself as “prosperous” or “living very comfortably,” and nearly half (45%) say they are “living reasonably comfortably.” But nearly one-quarter (23%) say they are “just getting along,” “nearly poor,” or “poor,” a possible indication of economic vulnerability.
Table 8.2 Standard of living(% of Jewish households)
Prosperous 7 Living very comfortably 26 Living reasonably comfortably 45 Just getting along 15 Nearly poor 7 Poor 1
Of respondents who answered both the income and standard of living questions, all who indicate that they are “nearly poor” or “poor” report household income below $50,000. By contrast, 10% of those who say they are “prosperous” or “very comfortable” report household income below $50,000. Of respondents who say they are “just getting along,” four-fifths (82%) report household income below $50,000 and one-sixth (16%) say their household income is at least $50,000 but less than $100,000.
The primary tool for mitigating the impact of poverty is food and emergency assistance. The average value of food received annually for a family of four costs about $3,000. There are 1,200 to 1,300 clients helped each year in this way by Jewish community programs.
Similarly, about 1,100 to 1,300 clients are served by career counseling services at a Jewish organization. Between 2013 and 2014 the number served went down 8.1%. Three out of four clients successfully obtained employment during each of the past two years.
1For more information, please see www.city-data.com.
Organizations that participated in this study include: Adat Shalom, Ahavath Achim Congregation, Beth El Congregation, Beth Hamedrash Hagodol – Beth Jacob, Beth Israel Center, Beth Israel Congregation of Latrobe, Beth Israel Congregation of Washington PA, Bnai Emunoh Chabad, The Beth Samuel Jewish Center, Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville, Chabad Lubavitch of the South Hills, Chabad of Pittsburgh, Congregation Bet Tikvah, Congregation Beth Shalom, Congregation B’nai Abraham, Congregation Emanu-El Israel, Congregation Kether Torah, Dor Hadash, Gemilas Chesed Synaogue, the Hebrew Free Loan Association, the Jewish Assistance Fund, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Lubavitch Center, Makom HaLev, New Light Congregation, Parkway Jewish Center, Pittsburgh Secular Jewish Community, Poale Zedek, Rodef Shalom, Shaare Torah Congregation, Temple Bnai Israel, Temple David, Temple Emauel of the South Hills, Temple Ohav Shalom, Temple Sinai, Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, Young Israel of Pittsburgh, and Young Peoples Synagogue.