This week we’ve got another great episode of the Research on Religion podcast, and it’s not just because host Anthony Gill gave this blog a shout out on it. It’s also because there’s a fascinating discussion with a scholar of American Judaism shedding light on important trends within that faith over the last 200 years.
Here are a few things that struck me in the episode:
- Jews were successful immigrants to the U.S. in large part because of their low time preference (these were not Prof. Chiswick’s words, but my inference from them). This tracks with the observations of Edward Banfield in The Unheavenly City, which I’ve referenced on this blog before.
- Jewish dietary laws produced many transaction costs for Jews attempting to “make it” in the broader economy outside Jewish enclaves by making business lunches, etc., more cumbersome to deal with.
- Reform Judaism provided an “out” for Jews trying to blend in more with the surrounding culture, and the economic benefits provided strong incentives for Orthodox Jews to abandon their traditional faith.
- After a generation or two, Reform Judaism helped lead to widespread secularization to the extent that large numbers of Jews today no longer see Judaism as a significant part of their identity, are willing to marry non-Jews, etc.
Anyone who knows anything about demographic trends in mainline Christian denominations and who doesn’t see any parallels here is simply not paying attention.