The Happy Arab News Service

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Demographic Race - II

Last updated: May 9, 2009

September 13, 2007

Unintended Consequences

On August 3 2003 Daniel Pipes was reviewing a research by Onn Winckler of Haifa University published In "Fertility Transition in the Middle East: The Case of the Israeli-Arabs," Israel Affairs, Autumn/Winter 2003.

The government subsidizes large families, he explains, to maintain a Jewish preponderance in the Jewish state and to increase the number of Jews in the world.

Over time, however, the impact of these subsidies have been increasingly felt among Israel's Muslim citizens, whose very high population growth Winckler in part attributes to the ever-growing subsidy they have received from the Israeli government for having many children.

This sum has increased for two reasons: (1) Before 1997, those who did not serve in the army received lesser amounts than those who did (a way to single out Jewish parents for higher benefits) but for six years now, the amounts have been equalized. (2) The amount of the state subsidy has gone through the roof; for example, the sum received for six children in 1960 was 8 percent of the average income of salaried workers; by 2001, it had reached 43 percent of that average income. For prolific parents, child-rearing can replace gainful employment; in 2001, Winckler reports, "the monthly children's allowance for seven children was $930, much above the minimum wage in Israel, which was approximately $770."

These large sums, Winckler explains, had "a major role in maintaining the high fertility levels among large segments of the Israeli-Muslim population, particularly during the past decade." Put more concretely: "the overall economic condition of a poor family with six children and above in much better than that of a poor family with only two or three children."

As one might expect, the natal subsidy has most impact among the poorest elements of Israeli society; indeed, Winckler finds, "high fertility rates among the lowest classes, both Jews and Arabs, function as a major tool for economic survival." And who are those economic "lowest classes"? They happen to number three: ultra-Orthodox Jews, Muslims in eastern Jerusalem, and Bedouin in the Negev desert. They also happen - and here the law of unintended consequences rears its head - to be the three least Zionist communities in the country. (August 3, 2003)


Since then there has been a significant drop in the Arab birth rate attributed by many to the reforms enacted by the current Likud leader Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) when he served as finance minister in Sharon's government. Bibi slashed child pensions, welfare handouts to single parent families were cut too, sending the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors tumbling below poverty line together with their birth rates. There was a certain downward trend in the Arab birth rate in years preceding Bibi, but it does seem that the reforms knocked the sector out demographically. The comparative analysis of the first six months of this year with the same month of 2006 shows that the trend continues and another percentage point will be knocked out of the rate this year.

Actually to be precise the reforms had a surprisingly limited effect on the demographic situation of the ultra-Orthodox sector. The two sectors responded differently and while the Arab birth rate nosedived, this did not happen in the ultra-Orthodox sector. Instead the work force participation went up dramatically in the ultra-Orthodox sector. The process was facilitated by the staggering success of the reforms - this year the unemployment in Israel hit its lowest level in a decade. That's why even the record low unemployment rate doesn't reveal the full scale of Bibi's stunning success as it doesn't account for thousands of ultra-Orthodox who were absorbed into the rapidly growing economy, never mind those who went to work on the black market unreported. In short what transpired is that, unlike Israeli Arabs, Jewish fundamentalists don't make children just for the sake of getting more welfare and their birth rate happened to be relatively resilient to the impact of the reforms. But there should be no doubt that the ultras did not like Bibi's tough and uncompromising approach.

Bibi's failure to stem the demographic surge of the ultra-Orthodox sector (if he has ever attempted to achieve this at all) is heavily loaded with far reaching consequences for the future of Israel and the whole Jewish world but this is not the subject of this post. What's relevant to the subject of this post is that at the beginning of this year in an attempt to improve his standing with the ultra-Orthodox sector Bibi addressed its leaders on several occasions. On one such occasion he tried to explain the rationale behind the reforms.

Speaking at a convention of the ultra-Orthodox local authorities held in Gush Etzion on Tuesday evening, Likud Chairman Netanyahu explained his economic moves during his tenure as finance minister which caused harm to the ultra-Orthodox public, particularly regarding child pensions.

In his speech, Netanyahu referred to the cuts in child pensions, saying that since they were implemented "two positive things happened: Members of the haredi public seriously joined the workforce. And on the national level, the unexpected result was the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate."

. . .

Ynet News
January 3, 2007


Needless to say the ultras refused to be impressed. Anyway, to put it short: At some point the state of Israel introduced the policy of child pensions that had set off demographic explosions in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors plunging both into deep poverty. In the process the demographic explosion in the Arab sector has been threatening the Jewish majority in Israel all along, while the demographic explosion in the ultra-Orthodox sector has so undermined the secular majority that the question of secular Israelis becoming a minority in Israel and even in the Jewish sector itself seems to be no longer the question of if but of when.

But the most amazing about all this is that whether it's the senseless and self destructive policy of the previous Israeli governments, or Netanyahu's reforms that have finally put an end to this madness, they almost wrecked the country and then saved it by the way of unintended consequences. The mess the Jews always make of their politics makes one really appreciate the fact that at least the creation of Israel happened to them as an intended consequence.


The following table is maintained and monthly updated by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The number of births per thousand in Israel, Jewish and Arab sectors.

Source: CBS

The number of births per thousand in the Arab sector can be seen dramatically declining after Netanyahu serving as a finance minister in Sharon's government has cut down on child allowances and other social benefits. The same indicator for the Jewish sector is slightly edging up, probably due to the ongoing demographic surge in the ultra-Orthodox sector which shows little signs of relenting. The ultra-Orthodox sector currently accounts for 1/3 of all Jewish births and 1/4 of all births in Israel and its share is expected to continue growing in the next decade.


For the sake of fairness I should say that on some occasions Bibi was talking as one who actually comprehends very well the consequences of his reforms. So maybe the demographic consequences of his policies were not so unintended after all.

May 9, 2009


My current understanding of the demographic situation of Israel is summarized in this post: The True Convergence

September 16, 2007

Roman Kalik said...

Two points. One, the ultra-Orthodox are very big on mutual financial aid. There are several initiatives going, on a fund-raising basis, that help bring to large Haredi families a similar grant to the one the government used to give . . .

. . .

This basically explains the mystery of the ultra-Orthodox demographics.

September 17, 2007

Unintended Implications

The Jerusalem Post
Aug 1, 2007

Haredim are set to account for a majority of Jews in the UK and US by the second half of the century, according to new research by a British academic.

University of Manchester historian Dr. Yaakov Wise says the increase in Britain's ultra-religious Jewry has now reversed the decline in the overall Jewish population, which he says has been shrinking by 1 to 2 percent per year since the 1950s.

According to Wise, Europe's haredi population is growing more rapidly than at any time since before WWII. Almost three out of every four British Jewish births, he says, are ultra-Orthodox, and the community now accounts for around 45,500, or 17 percent, of a total UK Jewish population of around 275,000.

"If current trends continue there is going to be a profound cultural and political change among British and American Jews, and it's already well on the way," Wise says. "This is in spite of demographic studies which show that the non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish population is flat or falling."

"My work, and that of Prof. Sergio Della Pergola [of the Hebrew University], reveal a similar picture in Israel. By the year 2020, the ultra-Orthodox population of Israel will double to one million and make up 17% of the total population. A recent Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics report also found that a third of all Jewish students will be studying at haredi schools by 2012, prompting emergency meetings at the Education Ministry," Wise says.

. . .

. . .


DellaPergola, 2005

The Jerusalem Post
Nov 9, 2005

By the year 2020, the haredi population of Israel will double to 1 million and make up 17 percent of the total population, said Hebrew University demographer Professor Sergio DellaPergola Tuesday.

DellaPergola, who belongs to the Department of Contemporary Jewry and the Institute for Jewish People Policy Planning, spoke at the Knesset's Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee

. . .
DellaPergola said that presently the haredi public made up about 11% of the Jewish population in Israel, or 550,000 individuals.

DellaPergola's estimate conflicts with a Central Bureau of Statistics survey released last week that estimated the haredi population to be just 8% of the population, or 420,000 adults.

"Unlike the CBS, which based its data on peoples' self-definition, I factored in other variables such as voting habits," said DellaPergola.

Every city in which more than 70% of the citizens voted for one of the haredi political parties, including Shas, was considered entirely haredi. However, DellaPergola assumed that a certain percentage of Shas voters were not haredi, rather traditional.

DellaPergola also assumed that the haredi population had more children per family.

Haredi families average 6.5 children, compared to a national Jewish average of 2.6 children.

"Still, these patterns will not continue indefinitely," said DellaPergola. "So it is difficult to forecast when the haredi population will become a majority."

. . .

. . .


The demographic trends inside the Jewish world highlighted by recent demographic reports are generally in line with global trends. The world seems to be progressively more given to massive and rapid demographic shifts that change the ethnic balance across nations and continents. I touched on some of this stuff here (Arabs), here (Lebanon) and here (Russia).

There may be several reasons for this. One should certainly have something to do with Western living standards and way of life. Modern Western secular culture and education, equipped with the latest technology and social protection mechanisms, seems to be the ultimate population growth stopper. In fact, it call it a stopper is an understatement given the massive demographic implosion under way in Europe.

On the other hand those bits of modern Western medical science and technology that reached the third world have shaken it to its very foundations. With infant mortality decreasing in many third world countries (and elsewhere), societies and communities oriented on demographic expansion have experienced demographic explosions unheard in human history. Over the last three decades some nations and communities have doubled and tripled their populations.

The final piece to complete the picture are globalization and increased mobility that enabled massive migration flows between countries and continents capable of affecting ethno-demographic shifts in some places almost overnight.

It's unclear to what degree secularism is responsible for the demographic implosion of Europe but similar trends were observed in many Communist countries who have never reached the Western level of prosperity. In fact some Communist countries have experienced demographic implosions of even worse scale than Western Europe. For example already in the 70's the demographers noticed something weird happening in Communist Russia.

The combination of these and possibly some other factors is rapidly destabilizing nations and communities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa and even Europe. Lebanon was one of the first signs of the incoming storm when its Christian community was swept away by the demographic explosion that consumed the world of Islam a few decades ago (Though it should be acknowledged that idiocy is responsible for what befell the Christians in Lebanon almost to the same degree as demographic factors).

In the US the rising tide of the evangelical and other Christians is expected to shift the balance of forces between the democrats and republicans within a decade and some American liberals are already pondering the stark choice facing them between being marginalized politically and compromising on such issues as abortions and gay marriages.

In short, the modern age seems to have greatly exacerbated the tendency of secular societies to stagnate/implode demographically and it clearly favors religious groups in this sense. And there are more than enough indications that the Jewish world is no exception to this rule.

The statistics on average family sizes in the ultra-Orthodox sector alone and the Jewish sector as a whole and the huge gap between the two cited by DellaPergola suggest that the secular sector may be already facing demographic stagnation the style of old Europe. The recently observed demographic prowess of the Jewish sector in Israel probably owes it all to the ultra-Orthodox.

DellaPergolla declined to forecast the haredi majority in Israel, but it should be plainly much easier to do regarding the Jewish diaspora. Jewish secular and traditional communities in the West will continue shrinking, disintegrating and assimilating. In the first world Jews can preserve themselves only as a normal nation based on language and culture, and probably a country, as is the case of Israelis, or as a hardcore form of Jewish religion. All intermediary forms will be wiped out within a generation or two. In this sense the ultra-Orthodox majority in the diaspora may happen even sooner than birth and mortality rates may be indicating.

If the recently spotted demographic trends persist, then this will dictate a totally different order of priorities than that adopted by the secular sector until now. The Israeli Arab co-existence loses much of its relevance as Arabs seem to be both uncooperative and on the way to drop out of the demographic race inside Israel. The issue of the secular ultra-Orthodox co-existence is becoming the top issue. Antagonizing the ultras no longer makes sense. In particular given that these people are winning the demographic race for all of us and on our own we seem to be no longer capable of doing it.

The principles of the future co-existence should be negotiated and established now because as time goes by the ultras encouraged by their swelling numbers may become increasingly unwilling to compromise, tempted instead to impose their will by the sheer mass of their electorate. The principles of the future co-existence should be based on demarcating and respecting each other's space. Trying to force gay parades into the very heart of ultra-Orthodox strongholds (and Jerusalem will be one, if it's not one already) is out of question. This also means that any concessions the secular sector wants to get from the religious sector as for example on civil marriages should be negotiated now as it may become no longer possible to achieve them later.

Weaning the ultra-Orthodox sector off social programs and demanding self reliance is absolutely necessary as the country may soon be no longer capable of supporting such a huge mass of impoverished population. The ultras should sort out their poverty mess by themselves, at the maximum they can expect assistance but there is no place for any more child pensions or any other mechanism of shifting resources from the secular sector to the ultra-Orthodox on a permanent basis.

Whatever course of action the secular sector adopts in dealing with the ultra-Orthodox demographic revolution, it should be based on a very clear understanding that something very fundamental is going to change. We may be witnessing one of the most dramatic turns in the history of the Jewish people: within the next few decades the Jewish world may go back to where it has originally come from - the Jewish religion, and for the secular Jews/Israelis in Israel and the diaspora the implications of this are profound.

September 26, 2006

Anonymous said...

Well, pessimist as usual? the ultra-orthodox sector have a great impact on Jewish fertility in Israel, but secular, traditional and modern-orthodox all have fertility levels above 2.1.

How do we know this? First of all check out areas in Israel (CBS interactive map) with no or almost none Haredi-population. Fertility levels are still above 2.1. Also check out estimates by sociologist for the different groups

Fertility behavior of recent immigrants to Israel

and finally read this very interesting Jpost article

Interesting Times: Israel's 'family values'

Europe is decaying because of the two-childnorm. Israel has a three-child norm wich helps seculars above replacementlevel.

And for the western secular diaspora where I live, we survive for same reason as for a 100 years ago: Immigration. There currently 700 000 yordim and the number increases with 10-20 000 a year. My mother i Israeli and so is at least 1/3 of the Swedish community. As long as you guys reproduce, we will continiue to exist. /Michael

September 26, 2007 4:57 PM

Nobody said...

who is this? Midi ?

:D :D

why pessimist? i am not ...

Fertility rates are still above 2.1 but in the secular sector it won't continue for long. I dont know any country in Europe apart from Albania that does not live through demographic implosion.

In some places the population age structure is reported to have become so skewed that it's possible to talk about the demographic implosion having moved beyond the point of no return and even in a highly improbable case the birth rates suddenly move back to normal levels, there is left not enough young women to stem the decline. I mean of course native European populations. Many immigrants, in particular, Muslims seem to be doing fine.

In the US the overall situation is different, but once again it's the Christians and immigrants who do the trick. The democratic constituencies are shrinking. Secular liberalism is proving itself incapable of surviving the modernity without going into a demographic collapse. I see this point made in many articles. The secular - religious ratio will change in the West everywhere.

Demographically the secular sector in Israel follows Europe with a delay of a decade or two. Right now the national Jewish average is 2.7, but don't forget that in the ultra orthodox sector it's something like 6.5 and this sector accounts for something like 1/3 of all Jewish births.

Reduce 1/3 from 2.7 and you will get something like 1.8. To be generous with you :D :D I will give it two percentage points. It will be 2.0. So it's flat in the non orthodox sector.

It's true that in many non orthodox places the fertility rates seem to be higher than this but we also have traditional people and semi orthodox.

My point is not particularly pessimistic. It's just that the country will be more religious. It will get a clear religious or pro religious majority and that's all. What's so pessimistic about it ?? Or you think you will be missing our leftists and liberals ??? :D :D

:D :D

Because i won't ... it's true that I am absolutely secular ... but I am not a utopianist ... I don't see my mission in assisting the creation of some special and very perfect society .. to stay alive and in a Jewish, or better non Arab, state is good enough for me ... I can survive without public transport on weekends ... Neither I mind having gay marriages outlawed as I am not gay :D :D

:D :D

September 26, 2007 5:34 PM

September 28, 2007

The Silent Revolution

I think it would be apt to end this never ending post with this piece from the USA Today that illustrates very well the nature of the trends discussed in the post and the comments section.

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic mother of five from San Francisco, has fewer children in her district than any other member of Congress: 87,727.

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, a Mormon father of eight, represents the most children: 278,398.

These two extremes reflect a stark demographic divide between the congressional districts controlled by the major political parties.

Republican House members overwhelmingly come from districts that have high percentages of married people and lots of children, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census Bureau data released last month.

MARRIAGE GAP: Elections could sway on status

GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district.

Many Democrats represent areas that have many single people and relatively few children. Democratic districts that have large numbers of children tend to be predominantly Hispanic or, to a lesser extent, African-American.

This "fertility gap" is crucial to understanding the differences between liberals and conservatives, says Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. These childbearing patterns shape divisions over issues such as welfare, education and child tax credits, he says.

GOP 'traditional families'

"Both sides are very pro-kids. They just express it in different ways," Brooks says. "Republicans are congenial to traditional families, which is clearly the best way for kids to grow up. But there are some kids who don't have that advantage, and Democrats are very concerned with helping those kids."

Children in Democratic districts are far more likely to live in poverty and with single parents than kids in GOP districts.

Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., has 227,246 children in his Bronx district, the 10th most in the House. Only 29% of those children live with married parents.

By contrast, 84% of children live with married parents in Cannon's central Utah district.

"These numbers are amazing," Cannon says. "I see now where José is coming from."

Cannon used to have a locker next to Serrano at the congressional gym and considers him a friend. "The needs of kids in his district are just not the same as the needs of children in my district," Cannon says.

Marriage and parenthood define what's different about Democratic and Republican districts even more clearly than race, income, education or geography, USA TODAY's analysis of Census data found.

For example, Republicans represent seven of the 50 districts that have the highest concentrations of blacks. Both parties are well represented among affluent and well-educated districts.

Democrats control only one of the 50 districts with the highest marriage rates.

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who represents the most-married Democratic district (32nd overall), discounts the importance of the marriage rates. "It's a statistic without meaning," he says. "If you look at numbers from enough different angles, you can see almost anything."

Demographics drive issues

Pelosi says in speeches that her most important concern is "the children, the children, the children," says her spokesman, Drew Hammill. That's why she wants to raise the minimum wage to help low-income parents, he says.

The stay-at-home mom is uncommon in all congressional districts. Mothers work at the same rate — about 71% — in Republican and Democratic districts.

Nevertheless, a big difference in family life is clear:

• Democrats represent 59 districts in which less than half of adults are married. Republicans represent only two.

• Democrats represent 30 districts in which less than half of children live with married parents. Republicans represent none.

"The biggest gaps in American politics are religion, race and marital status," says Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg.


History is not necessarily about wars, dramatic economic reforms programs, ethnic cleansing and peace agreements. There are other factors at work. They may be less obvious and calling attention, yet their impact may be even more far reaching than any global world war III.

In practical terms: contrary to some predictions, the USA support for Israel may actually strengthen in the future as a result of the demographic shift under way across America as the pro-Israel Evangelical Christians are one of the major factors tilting the demographic balance towards the Republicans. Within a decade swing states and even some mildly Democratic states will land in the Republican camp. USA support for Israel won't suffer even if all Jews leave America. There are others to pick up the fight.

(Now tell me that I am a pessimist, Midi)


Parts of the discussion in the comments section centered heavily on the demographic situation in Israel and the West/World in general.

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