Community demographic study enters in-depth census phase
Maximum participation urged
By PAUL HAIST
article created on: 2009-01-01T00:00:00
The in-depth census phase of the four-phase demographic study of the greater Portland area’s Jewish community commissioned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is set to begin in the middle of this month.
Its goal is to compile 700 detailed surveys from the Jewish population related to all things Jewish. The census interviews are expected to be complete by as early as late February or early March.
The first two phases of the study, which were conducted in the last months of 2008, located Jewish households and people of Jewish background, as well as some additional preliminary details that enabled the researchers to prepare for the upcoming census phase. The fourth and final phase will target all non-affiliated Jews identified in phases 1 and 2, with the intention of determining their reasons for non-affiliation.
Some 4,300 preliminary surveys were completed. The 700 detailed surveys of the census phase will be taken from those respondents.
The study is being conducted by Yacoubian Research of Memphis, Tenn. The company has done similar surveys for other Jewish communities.
The census questions include some that Yacoubian has used in its studies for other communities and many that were developed here with the cooperation of congregations, organizations and federation-affiliated agencies.
Yacoubian Research founder Berje Yacoubian was in Portland recently with his wife and business partner Kathy Wade-Yacoubian. Berje Yacoubian stressed the vital necessity of community participation.
“The whole purpose of sampling is to enable the researchers to collect information from a small group and extrapolate to the whole (Jewish) population,” he said.
He explained that every sampling carries sampling error, which varies according to the sample size.
“It is imperative that all respondents participate to include as high a sample (size) as possible,” said Yacoubian.
Those contacted for the census portion will have the opportunity to complete the survey on the phone, online or on a printed form. The complete survey is expected to take about 25 minutes.
The first two phases of the study, which consisted of some 44,000 random-dialed phone calls that resulted in the 4,300 completed initial surveys, already have yielded some tantalizing findings.
For example, Yacoubian said it was already possible to project as “a best estimate” that there are 25,000 Jewish households in the four-county Portland Metropolitan Statistical Area. The PMSA includes Clark County, Washington, as well as Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties in Oregon.
Yacoubian cautioned that at this stage of the project there remains a fairly wide spectrum of possibilities on the estimate of Jewish households. He put the minimum at 19,900 and the maximum at 29,000 in the four-county area.
Yacoubian estimates that there are 39,000 Jews in the 25,000 households. He also estimated that there are another 9,800 households that include persons of Jewish background, but who do not identify as Jewish; he calls them PJBs.
In Multnomah County alone, he said, initial findings suggest that 5.13 percent of all households include at least one Jew. The last U.S. Census (which does not ask respondents’ religion) counted 272,098 households in Oregon’s most densely populated county. Using that figure, there would be nearly 14,000 households with one or more Jews in Multnomah County.
The full study has six key objectives:
• Obtain scientifically valid estimates of the Jewish population and Jewish households.
• Estimate the number of unaffiliated Jews, ascertain their reason for non-affiliation, and determine what type of services (if any) would convince them to affiliate with the Jewish community in greater Portland.
• Project future trends in Jewish population growth as well as growth in Jewish households.
• Compile demographic data from Jews and people of Jewish background living in the four counties in the Portland Metropolitan Statistical Area.
• Identify the Jewish population’s awareness of, connection to, affiliation with and attitudes toward existing Jewish institutions, as well as their satisfaction with current services and programs.
• Ascertain future social-service and infrastructure needs of the greater Portland Jewish community.
Wade-Yacoubian said, “Once the data is gathered, then the hard work begins within the community.”
She said Yacoubian Research helps communities put their studies in perspective by returning for follow-up meetings and suggesting marketing strategies based on the findings.
“There is so much information, it’s like a pool,” she said. “You can go back and drink from it time and time again.”
She said the studies help communities make difficult decisions. She pointed to the federation’s annual allocations process, dividing up the funds raised in the federation annual campaign.
“People ask, ‘How will the community feel?’ Now you have the answer,” said Wade-Yacoubian.
“At least now you will have a basis on which you can build,” he said. “You can go back to the study and see what the people said.”
Wade-Yacoubian reiterated her husband’s earlier plea for cooperation in the study by as many respondents as possible. She called it an opportunity for the community to call upon “its collective wisdom versus its conventional or anecdotal wisdom.”
“Everyone’s voice is important,” she said. “We want to give everyone an opportunity.”