Jews and the 2011 Census

The Jewish Chronicle of 5 March 2010 reports that, following a lengthy process of consultation with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has agreed to make the 2011 census schedule available in Yiddish, in an attempt to boost the response rate from Jews. The move has been welcomed by Dr David Graham, the Institute’s Director of Social and Demographic Research.

However, the plan has gone down less well with the leaders of the strictly orthodox Jewish community of Stamford Hill, which was one of the intended beneficiaries. They have branded the government concession as ‘political correctness and tokenism’ and ‘patronising’. They would prefer instead for the questions to be asked in Hebrew (as ONS had originally offered), for the assistance of Israelis marrying into the Stamford Hill community.

The controversy is not simply an academic issue since the 2001 census is believed to have underenumerated the Jewish population, with (among other things) consequential implications for the provision of local authority services.

In particular, according to Graham, there was a suspected undercount of the ultra-orthodox Charedim, especially in Stamford Hill and Broughton Park, possibly of the order of 30-40%. In the former, in fact, the census identified only 8,000 Jews, whereas local community leaders estimated the number as nearer 20,000.

The phenomenon of Jewish underenumeration in 2001 has been debated in the journal Population, Space and Place. See David Graham and Stanley Waterman, ‘Underenumeration of the Jewish Population in the UK 2001 Census’, Vol. 11, 2005, pp. 89-102; David Voas, ‘Estimating the Jewish Undercount in the 2001 Census: A Comment on Graham and Waterman’, Vol. 13, 2007, pp. 401-7; and David Graham and Stanley Waterman, ‘Locating Jews by Ethnicity: A Reply to D. Voas’, Vol. 13, 2007, pp. 409-14.

For other analyses of Judaism in the 2001 census, see: Marlena Schmool, ‘British Jewry in 2001: First Impressions from the Censuses’, Jewish Year Book, 2004, pp. xx-xxxi; Gareth Piggott and Rob Lewis, 2001 Census Profile: The Jewish Population of London, London: Greater London Authority, 2006; David Graham, Marlena Schmool and Stanley Waterman, Jews in Britain: A Snapshot from the 2001 Census, London: Institute for Jewish Policy Research, 2007; and Marlena Schmool, Scotland’s Jews, Glasgow: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, 2008.

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