Statistical Facts About Education and Poverty Among Hasidim

The common excuse by people in public policy circles for their disproportionate fixation on Yeshiva education is the apparent elevated poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods, and the allegation is that Yeshiva education is the cause. However, there are many factors unrelated to Yeshivas that cause the poverty rates in the Hasidic community to be skewed higher according to the data below from the Census based on the Village of Kiryas Joel (Town of Palm Tree) in Orange County, New York. We are using Kiryas Joel as a baseline because it is the largest Hasidic community quantified by the U.S. Census. 
According to the American Community Survey from the Census for the years 2013-2017, the median income for males in New York was $41,212; in Kiryas Joel it was $30,136 — a difference of 26%. Among full time male workers who were employed year-round, the median income in New York those five years was $51,302; in Kiryas Joel it was $42,806 — a difference of 16%. Among this category (Year Round, Full Time, Male Workers) across New York, 55.9% earned a median income of $50,000 or more; in Kiryas Joel, 51.3% of this category had a median income of $50,000 or more. Despite income numbers in KJ being quite close to the rest of New York, here are the factors causing the Poverty Rate in Kiryas Joel to be considerably higher than elsewhere in New York:
DISPARITY IN MEDIAN AGE: In 2017, 92 percent (this is not a misprint! Again, 92 percent) of the Kiryas Joel population was under the age of 45, compared to only 55 percent of the general New York population that was so young. More strikingly, if one removes minors and retirees (age 65 or above) from the equation, then 34% of the New York population would be in the prime earning age of 45 to 60 while only 12.5% of Kiryas Joel would be in their prime earning age. This matters because people in their mid 20's earn on average only half than those who are well in their 40's or 50's, and the average age of year-round, full-time, male workers in Kiryas Joel is significantly lower than in New York. Thus, the age factor contributes to the income disparity between KJ and the rest of NY.
YOUNGER HEADS OF HOUSEHOLDS: While a typical young adult in New York still resides with their parents or is in college, most Hasidic individuals of the same age have already established their own household, and they either continue studies as heads of households or start to work before or while completing their higher education. Those scenarios add many lower-income households to the Census data in Kiryas Joel in ways not seen across New York. 
HOUSEHOLDS SIZES: Poverty is measured by splitting a household's income by the number of individuals in that household. A household of 2.63 people - the average household in New York in 2017 - that earns $19,500 a year would not be considered poor, yet an average household in Kiryas Joel of 5.50 people would be in poverty even if it earned $30,500 a year. Some would contend that ‘if you can’t afford them, don’t have them,’ but the same people would not say this to the parents of the 2.5 million children who attend public schools in New York, with more than half of those students living in poverty. Besides, the contention that people should bear children based on affordability sidesteps the debate that we are having now. Namely, is Yeshiva Education the cause for the income disparities
INCOME MEASURING FORMULA: Poverty is measured by counting the total household income; it does not separate male and female income. This is key because only 38% of women in Kiryas Joel are employed, compared to 68% of females in New York; this leave many households with less income. Detractors of the Hasidic community would at this point argue that more Hasidic women should seek employment. However, this misses the point that the reduced income is not related to whether Yeshiva education leaves Hasidic men ready for the world. In fact, 70% of men in Kiryas Joel ages 20-64 are employed, compared to 76% statewide. Thus, the lower household income in Kiryas Joel is a result of only one person being employed. It does not reflect on the income abilities of male breadwinners based on their Yeshiva education. 
ADVERSE INCOME SYSTEM: Some New Yorkers - and maybe also some in Kiryas Joel - choose to work less due to a regressive social benefit system that financially penalizes a family of four who earns $55,000 instead of $30,000 a year. 
SOCIETAL CAUSES: It is well established that elevated poverty rates in many minority communities are directly correlated to broader societal problems that those communities did not cause. Similarly, when it comes to Hasidim, bigotry commonly manifests itself causing some Hasidim to have difficulties in landing well-paying jobs. Thus, the Hasidic poverty rate may be an issue that is perpetuated by society at large.
YESHIVAS ARE A BOON FOR TAXPAYERS: By having more than 155,000 students in grades K-12 in private schools for School Year 2017-2018, the Jewish community in New York provides a deep discount to taxpayers. An average private school student in New York receives less than $1,500 a year in school services from taxpayers, compared to $22,000 that every public-school student receives. This is an annual taxpayer savings of $3.1 billion, with 60 percent of the savings benefiting statewide taxpayers, since the state pays on average 60% of a school district’s budget. The savings are beneficial to taxpayers despite the higher level of safety net eligibility among Hasidim, because it costs taxpayers less money to cover Medicaid for six Hasidic children than what it costs taxpayers to cover one child in public school. - and more than half public-school children are on Medicaid too!
In summary, Hasidic Men with many years in the workforce have income that is comparable to their peers in the rest of New York. However, many factors cause the Poverty Rate among Hasidim to appear higher than in other places such as that the average age of Hasidic workers being very young; Hasidim starting households sooner than others; larger Hasidic households, and less Hasidic women working. None of these factors say how well or weak Hasidic Men are ready for the big world when they leave Yeshiva at age 18. One can argue that being willing to start an own household at a very young age, shows a level of readiness worthy of applause. 
The mission of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) is to counter the defamation and generalization of the Orthodox Jewish community. Please consider supporting our efforts by following us on Twitter/Facebook (@OJPAC); by sharing our content and by donating funds via our Donate Page. Your support is appreciated!

The mission of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) is to counter the defamation and generalization of the Orthodox Jewish community. Please consider supporting our efforts by following us on Twitter/Facebook (@OJPAC); by sharing our content and by donating funds via our Donate Page. Your support is appreciated!

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