gearPoverty & Emergency Assistance

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.

Summary Metrics

 FY2017FY2016FY2015FY2014FY2013FY2012Net ChangePercent Change
Number of clients served by food pantries under Jewish auspices1,8262,9982,8651,7471,2811,209(1,172)(39.0%)
Total pounds of food distributed by food pantries under Jewish auspices248,132289,614312,286245,864209,208238,593(41,482)(16.7%)
Number of clients served through career counseling services at a Jewish organization1,6571,7131,4521,0381,1291,245(56)(3.2%)
Percentage of clients placed in a job through career counseling services at a Jewish organization87%85%84%85%75%70%3.5%
Average time to get a job through career counseling services at a Jewish organization3.25 months4.25 months4.5 months4.5 months4.5 months5.5 months4 weeks23.5%
  • 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 householdsAll households
    Less than $25,0001723

    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 comfortably26
    Living reasonably comfortably 45
    Just getting along15
    Nearly poor7

    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.