The following is an 1,100-word, data-based essay:
The common excuse by people in public policy circles for their disproportionate fixation on Hasidic Yeshiva education is the apparent elevated poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods, and the allegation is that Yeshiva education is the cause for these elevated rates. However, there are many factors unrelated to Yeshiva or education that cause the poverty rates in the Hasidic community to be skewed higher according to data from the Census. The data is based on the Village of Kiryas Joel (Town of Palm Tree) in Orange County, New York and we use this since KJ 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 all working males in New York was $41,212, while 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 was $51,302 while in Kiryas Joel it was $42,806 — a difference of 16%. Among this category (Year Round, Full Time, Male Workers), 55.9% earned a median income of $50,000 or more in NY, while in Kiryas Joel 51.3% of this category had a median income of $50,000 or more. These numbers show that income for Hasidic males is quite close to that of males across New York, and this is before factoring in many items unrelated to education - as listed below - which take a bite out of income and also cause poverty to appear worse than it really is.
DISPARITY IN MEDIAN AGE: Almost a quarter of heads of households in Kiryas Joel are under the age of 25 while only a few percent of households across New York are run by people of this young age. On the flip side, most heads of households across New York are above the age of 45 while in KJ less than a quarter heads of households are at this age. This matters because people in their mid 20's across New York and across the United States earn less than half the level of those who are in their 40's or 50's. Age is thus of the biggest factors to the income disparity between Kiryas Joel and the rest of New York. No amount of studying about Abraham Lincoln or FDR will change this.
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. As such, the elevated Poverty Rate in Kiryas Joel reflects a difference in Household Size rather than a large difference in income of males. Some would contend that "if you can’t afford them, don’t have them." However, he same people would not say this to the parents of the millions of children who attend public schools in New York at a taxpayer cost of $23,000 per student per year, and more than half of those students live in poverty. Besides, the contention that people should bear children based on affordability sidesteps the debate that we are having now. Namely, if Yeshiva Education causes a disparity in income.
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 in large part because the households are run by younger adults who are focused on raising children. This leaves many Hasidic households with less income. Detractors of the Hasidic community would in response argue that more Hasidic women should seek employment. However, this again misses the point of the conversation on whether Yeshiva education leaves Hasidic men ready for the world and capable of earning a living. 70% of men in Kiryas Joel ages 20-64 are employed which mirrors the 76% males statewide who ae employed. The lower household income in Kiryas Joel is a result of only one person being employed due to the focus on raising families and due to the head of household being very young; an age group that earns less no matter how many hours a day they spent reading about volcanoes.
SOCIETAL CAUSES: It is well established that elevated poverty rates in many minority communities are directly correlated to societal bigotry that those communities did not cause. When it comes to Hasidim, bigotry can also cause difficulties for Hasidim to land a job and they thus need to settle for less. The Hasidic poverty rate may, in part, be an issue that is seen in other minority communities yet when it comes to other communities there is no broad-brush blame on said communities for the outcome.
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!
Summary: Employment levels for Hasidic males mirrors that of New York overall and the smaller-than-advertised income disparity for Hasidic males is largely due to a huge age difference between workers who are Hasidic vs. those who are not. The age factor also causes the Poverty Rate among Hasidim to appear higher in addition to other factors such as that Hasidim start households at a stage that many people would still be in college; Hasidim have larger households which means a household can be considered poor even if it earns double than that of a small household, and less Hasidic women work due to being young and focused on raising a family. Indeed, the Poverty Rate for Hasidic Households run by those age 60 or above is almost identical to that of the rest of New York, because the weak-income-due-to-age factor and larger household factor are gone at this age.
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