Household Income and Community Connected-ness

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.

Financial Statement

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?

connected to 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.

Connected to community2

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.

as jewish as you wish

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.

jewish needs satisfied

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:

Syns are welcoming


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.

Proud of Pittsburgh

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.

  1. A Jew in Pittsburgh Reply

    You don’t need a study to know this. How often have we all gone to an event and been made to feel less worthy b/c we couldn’t write a check to the UJF that was big enough? How often have any of you gotten the schpeil about how the rich folks “sacrifice” by taking one less vacation per year in order to donate thousands of dollars and they just can’t understand that you haven’t taken a single vacation in years, so cutting three vacations down to two doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice. I have often been given these lectures about how “easy” it is to donate 3k in my name per year. Yes, if I stopped buying groceries that would be super easy. All those lectures have done is keep me from donating the few hundred I used to regularly donate. If 300 isn’t enough then I’ll give it to someone else.

    How many of the boring events costs a fortune and have, as their primary entertainment, auctions where no person of normal income can manage to win a bid? How many of us struggle with infertility and the ability to pay for pricey treatments while getting nothing but baby and child centered programming…. with virtually nothing geared towards childless or child-free households? Don’t get me wrong, I think child centered programming is great. But, can’t there be something more than that? Can’t we engage our community via programming that is inclusive and takes into account a wide variety of incomes, social situations, and family sizes? Can’t women’s programming be inclusive of working women? Yes, it can… it is just that those in charge don’t want it to be.

    The Jewish community is doing a bang-up job of making those of us who aren’t rich feel terrible. And if we happen to be non-rich people who work and can’t manage to have children the message is that we are completely worthless.

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