Success in America
The Income of American Jewish Men
Income and earnings are in part determined by the demands of the
reference group to which anyone may belong. Because Jewish Americans prize
education and upward mobility to a major extent, it is in no manner surprising
that the income of Jewish men exceeds average American income by a considerable
The explanation for this phenomenon lies in the emphasis Judaism gives to
this world rather than “the next world.” This means that American non-Jews,
who are mainly Christians, are more concerned with salvation in the olam habo,
the world to come, than is true of Jews, and are therefore less interested in
upward mobility than is true of Jews.
In addition, American Jews, despite their evident success, are largely
living a marginal life. Because Jews are a small
minority of only 1.8% of the American population, the Jewish reference group,
the people to whom Jews refer their beliefs, attitudes and conduct, differs
somewhat from that of the majority, even as Jews have entered into all American
occupations and are conducting their lives in accordance with “Anglo
conformity.” Marginal people everywhere are more likely to strive for
recognizable success as a compensation for real and perceived disadvantages.
That which is believed to be real is indeed real in its consequences.
Conservative Jews have higher earnings than reform or orthodox Jews and
those who have attended a Jewish day school have significantly higher earnings
than other Jewish men. Schooling, labor market experience and being currently
married are all positively associated with high earnings. These traits are also
associated with education, so that earnings are increased by about 6% per year
of Jewish education.
Because physicians earn more than the average income in the United
States, it is indicative of Jewish success that 14% of American physicians are
Jewish, exceeding our proportion to the American population seven fold or more.
Physicians earn between $164,000 and $900,000 a year depending on their
specialty. Likewise, lawyers earn between $125,000 and $192,000 a year depending
on their location, with some earning much more and some less. Law is a favorite
profession among American Jews.
Evidently, most Jews are neither lawyers nor physicians. Yet, Jewish
business success is also in evidence in this country, as judged by Jewish
billionaires. 48% of American billionaires are Jewish. It is therefore not
unreasonable to project that nearly half of the most successful American
business men and women are Jewish by any definition of “Jewish.”
While only 19% of Americans earn $100,000 a year or more, this is true of
46% of American Jews. Twenty-five percent of American Jews hold a graduate
degree. Only 6% of the American people hold a graduate degree. Forty percent of
Americans are employed as managers or professionals. Sixty-one percent of
American Jews are managers or professionals, including Jewish professors, who
account for about ten percent of American faculties, or more than five times
their proportion of the American population.
Jewish success is also visible when we consider elected officials. Ten
percent of the U.S. Senate is Jewish and one third of the Supreme Court Justices
are Jewish. Evidently the American public is willing to elect Jews even in
states such as Wisconsin, which has a small Jewish population.
All this success attracts some malicious bigots. Yet, it is a matter of
historical record that in eastern Europe, where Jews were exceedingly poor, the
hate mongers targeted the poor Jews and murdered them. Evidently hatred is
always the fault of the hater and never the attribute of his victims.
May our success continue and let us be proud of each other for all we