07 September 2011

Jews: Why are they make so much money and vote so left?

Stephen Kershnar
The Mystery of Jewish Success
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
September 5, 2011

As a group, American Jews are a mystery. Their overall success lacks a clear explanation. So does the fact that they consistently vote for and fund a party that is against their interests.

Jews are roughly 2% of the U.S. population. In the U.S., University of Washington sociologist Paul Burstein points out that Jews are more successful educationally and economically than other ethnic, racial, or religious groups in America. One 2005 study found that in the 1990’s more than 60% of Jews were college graduates, versus 22% of all Americans. Even the well-educated and successful Episcopalians (46% college graduates) don’t come close.

This pattern intensifies at the high end of the academic food chain. Blogger Steven Silbiger points out that Jews are 20% of the professors are leading universities. During the 20% Century, University of Utah Anthropologist Gregory Cochran and his colleagues point out that 27% American Nobel Prize winners in science were Jewish. They are also 25% of the Turing Award winners (for excellence in computer science). They are also more than half of the world’s chess champions.

Jews also have and make a lot more money than other Americans. One 2003 study found that their family net worth is roughly 2.5 times greater than other Americans. A 2005 study found that their household income is roughly double (195% per capita) of the average American household.

Again, the pattern intensifies at the high end. Silbiger reports that 45% of the Forbes richest Americans are Jews and that one-third of American multimillionaires are Jews. This pattern can also be seen in the professions. Consider, for example, law. Silbiger reports that 45% of partners in leading law firms in New York and Washington are Jews. The same is true for one-third of the Supreme Court Justices.

In other areas, they are far less successful. Their presence in the professional football, baseball, basketball, and mixed martial arts is far less impressive. For example, in the NFL in 2002-2003, there were only six in the NFL, 4 of whom play the less athletic positions such as quarterback, kicker, or punter (34% of the teams are currently owned by Jews). There are few American sex symbols who are Jewish, although Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman are near the top.

There are multiple explanations for the Jews’ success, although it is unclear whether any particular one is true and, if so, what weight to give it. One explanation is that Jews do well in the same way non-Jews do, by getting more education and working long hours. This explanation is unhelpful because it begs the question as to why Jews do these things more than others.

A second explanation is that Jews succeed because they have beliefs or behaviors that are specifically Jewish. For example, Professor Lehrer and others posit that the advantage might come about because education is central in traditional Jewish life and because Jews have a historic tradition of self-help organizations. Others note that Jews have a long tradition of working in managerial and financial jobs. It is not clear how to test this explanation. A 1998 study by Esther Wilder and William Walters found that more observant Jews (for example, Orthodox Jews) make less money than less observant ones (for example, Reform Jews), but it is unclear whether religious observance tracks the influence of traditional Jewish life.

A third explanation focuses on social capital. Social capital is the advantage that a population has because it has certain collective human resources that benefit members. Burstein provides an example of a Jewish gathering in which professionals and business owners provide the younger generation with a competitive advantage by serving as role models and giving them advice and encouraging proper attitudes. Along the same lines, more educated parents might be thought better able to better promote academic skills. Again, this explanation is hard to assess and, in any case, likely depends on another account to explain why they have more social capital.

More controversial is a fourth explanation: intelligence and genetics. Anthropologist Cochran and his colleagues argue that Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQ of any ethnic group. They score about 0.75 to 1.0 standard deviations (12-15 IQ points) above the general European average. In at least one case, the higher IQ was found even among poorer Ashkenazi Jews. They also have a very distinctive pattern in scoring noticeably higher in verbal and math scores, but lower in visuo-spatial abilities. Cochran and company argue that this might explain why their success in literature and math has not produced similar results in several of the arts (for example, sculpture and architecture). To the extent that group differences in intelligence have a genetic explanation, this might partly explain Jewish success.

Despite their economic and educational success, Jews vote against their interest. They overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party despite its explicit commitment to wealth redistribution and higher taxes on the wealthy and upper middle class. This is even more surprising given the Democratic Party’s and President Obama’s unwavering support for affirmative action, many of the spots for which would otherwise go to Jews (and Asians). There are frequent reports that Jews provide a significant portion of the money that goes into Democratic coffers, but I am unable to find an academic study that verifies these reports. According to Ruy Teixeira, 78% of Jews voted for Obama. This makes them more similar to blacks (96% for Obama) and Hispanics (67% for Obama) than whites (43% for Obama). This is all the more interesting given that on the whole Democrats and the left are less supportive of Israel than Republicans and the right. This is particularly true of Obama who is probably the least friendly President to Israel in years.

The Jewish pattern of voting for Democrats appears to lack a good explanation. As Marc Sheppard from the American Thinker has pointed out, the pattern has been in place since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Jews supported Roosevelt by a 9-to-1 in 1940 and 1944. Sheppard argues that this is odd given that the Roosevelt administration worked overtime to prevent Jewish immigration and during WWII avoided bombing the death camps. It is also odd because socialist states were notoriously hostile to Jews and some (for example, Germany and Soviet Union) targeted them. In any case, the pattern is stable over recent years with large majorities of Jews supporting Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama. Unlike the explanations for economic success, the various explanations for Jewish leftism are far more speculative. It remains a mystery why group members vote so transparently against their interests.


The Objectivist said...

Many of the leading Jewish Congressional members are also far left. Consider, for example, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein, and Henry Waxman.

They are also among the biggest demagogues, liars, and bullies. Schumer and Waxman being prime examples. I wonder how most Jewish-American people feel about them.

The Objectivist said...

Hitler ran together Bolshevism and Jewry. It is interesting to consider whether there was a lot of overlap. I also wonder about the same issue and the socialist movement and American Communist Party in the United States. I do not know the answer regarding the degree of overlap.