‘Religious minorities in American South experience discrimination... except for Jews’

Study suggests Jews experience preferential treatment over other faith groups; Muslims, pagans, atheists experience most discrimination.

June 20, 2014 05:17
3 minute read.
Head shown with Israeli flag design kippa

Head with Israeli flag kippa. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)


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Jews may experience much less discrimination in the American South than previously thought, a new study published in the journal Social Currents found.

The study, by Michael Wallace, Bradley Wright and Allen Hyde of the University of Connecticut, found that while job applicants who expressed a religious identity in their resume were more than a quarter less likely to receive a response from prospective employers, Jews did not face any “discernible discrimination.”

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In fact, the researchers stated, there is some evidence that Jews actually experienced preferential treatment over members of other faith groups.

The study tracked responses to fictional resumes sent to randomly chosen employers throughout the American South by supposed members of seven religious groups, including the fictional Wallonian faith.

Muslims, pagans, and atheists experienced the most discrimination, followed by Wallonians and Catholics, who experienced moderate levels of prejudicial treatment. Evangelical Christians experienced very little discrimination.

“Only Jews escaped totally unscathed as we found no statistically significant evidence of hiring discrimination against this group across all eight indicators in the study,” the authors wrote, stating that members of the Mosaic faith “were more likely to receive an early, exclusive, or solo response from employers, compared with all other religious groups combined.”

This suggests, they continued, that “there is a subset of employers who show a preference for Jewish applicants.”

The researchers cited a recent Pew survey that found that Jews have “substantially” higher levels of income and education than other Americans.

The prominence of Jews and Israel in Evangelical theology may also point to their acceptance in the South, an evangelical stronghold. “Despite constituting barely 1 percent of the Southern population, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on Southern culture,” the researchers added.

“While Jews are culturally different from Evangelicals in many respects, Southern Jews have deep historical roots in the South and have more successfully assimilated into mainstream culture than Jews in other regions,” the paper asserted.

The results of the study are “consistent with the high social standing of American Jews,” Hebrew Union College sociologist Steven Cohen told The Jerusalem Post in response to the study.

“In 1964, a national survey found that Jews were among the least admired white ethnic groups. In 2009, a similar survey found that Jews are the most admired American religious group, surpassing even the Protestants who make up the majority of respondents. Jews are also the most educated and most affluent ethnic group in America,” Cohen said.

According to a recent study of global attitudes toward Jews by the Anti-Defamation League, Americans are among the least anti-Semitic peoples on earth, with only 9% of citizens answering “probably true” to a series of questions on anti-Semitic stereotypes.

“We know there continues to be discrimination in every aspect of life in America, though today it is generally of the more subtle kind and not based on overtly discriminatory policies,” ADL national director Abraham Foxman told the Post.

“This study of the role of religion in hiring practices focuses on the American South, which is a region that is historically more deeply religious than some other regions like the Northeast. The survey is not conclusive, given the fact that these were fictitious job applicants, and, at the end of the day, no one was offered a job,” Foxman said.

“While the results of the study conclude that Jews are less likely to be discriminated against than any other religious group, including a fictitious religion, we should not be comforted by this, as they may be based on stereotypes of Jews that are perceived as positive, as opposed to the stereotypes of other religions which are perceived as negative. Furthermore, we know that Jews who profess a strict religious observance still face difficulties in being fully accepted in the workplace,” he said.

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