American Muslims Catching Up With Jews in Both Population and Earnings

Latest Pew report also shows that American Jews are less committed to their faith than Muslims.

Jews may be the largest religious minority in the United States, but according to the latest Pew Report on religion in America, Muslims are catching up.

The report, published this week and titled “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” shows that Jews accounted for 1.9 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, slightly higher than the 1.7 percent reported seven years earlier, the last time the study was conducted. America’s Muslim population grew much more rapidly during this period, rising from 0.4 percent to 0.9 percent. Consequently, Jews and Muslims are today the two largest religious minority groups in the United States. (In the previous report, Buddhists had outnumbered Muslims).

The latest Pew Report on religion in America, published this week, was based on telephone interviews with more 35,000 adults around the country.

A comparison of America’s two largest religious minorities shows that Jews tend to be older than Muslims, more likely to intermarry and less likely to retain their faith. As Jews are also more established in the United States, it follows that they are also more educated and earn more. Still, the findings show that earning gaps between Jews and Muslim have narrowed dramatically over the past seven years.

Here are some takeaways from the report that show how America’s biggest religious minorities fare against one another:

Americans born Jewish are more likely to continue identifying as Jews later in life than are Christians, but not as likely as Muslims. The Pew findings show that the religious retention rate among Jews is 75 percent, compared with 77 percent among Muslims (Hindus top the list at 80 percent). 

American Jews are far more likely to intermarry than American Muslims. The Pew findings show that 35 percent of married Jews in the United States have a non-Jewish spouse, whereas only 21 percent of married Muslims have a non-Muslim spouse. Among intermarried Jews, the report shows that Catholics are the top choice for a spouse, whereas among intermarried Muslims, followers of “historically black Protestant tradition,” as it is described, are the top choice.

American Jews tend to be much older than American Muslims. The findings show that the median age among Jewish adults is 50, compared with only 33 among Muslim adults. While retirees make up more than a quarter of the Jewish population, they account for just 5 percent of the Muslim population. 

Jews are more grounded in America than Muslims. According to the findings, only 12 percent of American Jews were born elsewhere, compared with 61 percent of Muslims (among Hindus, the rate is an even higher at 87 percent). Twenty-two percent of American Jews are second-generation, with at least one parent born abroad, and 66 percent are third generation. Among Muslims, 17 percent are second generation and 18 percent are third generation (4 percent either refused to answer the question or did not know).

The fact that a majority of American Muslims are immigrants can explain why they are less likely to be college graduates. The Pew report shows that 59 percent of American Jews have college degrees, compared with 39 percent of Muslims – still much higher than the 27 percent among Americans overall. In addition, 31 percent of American Jews have post-graduate degrees, as compared with 17 percent of American Muslim. Hindus top the list in this category as well: 77 percent have college degrees and 48 percent have post-graduate degrees.

Jews earn more than Muslims but as not as much more as they used to. According to the Pew findings, 44 percent of American Jews earn $100,000 or more a year. (Jews are actually more than twice as likely than the average American to have make over $100,000.) Only 20 percent of Muslims fall into that income category. But the gap is narrowing, with Jews earning less and Muslims earning more: 46 percent of American Jews made more than $100,000 a year seven years ago, compared with only 13 percent of Muslims.