Why Contemporary American Jews Want Small Families: An Interreligious Comparison of College Graduates

Publication Date: January 1981

Publisher: E.J. Brill (Firm)

Author(s): Steven M. Cohen; Paul Ritterband

Research Area: Culture and religion; Population and demographics

Keywords: American Jews; Fertility; Family

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


It is well established that among major American religious groups Catholics, have, expect to have, and want to have the largest families. They are followed in turn by Protestants, who in turn exceed Jews. Westoff, Potter and Sagi (1964) report that "religious preference, that is, preference for the Protestant, Catholic or Jewish faith, is the strongest of all major social influences on fertility." In this paper we shall address two problems. First, we shall attempt to account for differences in desired family size by religion. Second, we shall examine the routes to group mean desired family size. The first of these problems has been the subject of a large body of research which we shall review in this paper. The second issue is, in a sense, derivative from the first, yet distinct. Groups may well want the same family size (i.e., group mean fertility) but arrive at their result through different routes. Thus, we shall be examining: (a) religious group differences in family size desires, and (b) religious group differences in determinants of family size desires.

In Modern Jewish Fertility, ed. by Paul Ritterband, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981, p.209-231.