Dr. Maya Choshen

A new study correlating fertility in Israel with the level of women’s religiosity, published in June of this year by Dr. Ahmad Hleihel of the Central Bureau of Statistics, states “In recent years there has been an increase in Israeli public discourse regarding the differences in fertility levels among women from the different groups that make up the mosaic of Israeli society. This discourse focuses on the future composition of Israeli society and, in particular, the composition of the work-age population. There are three principal reasons for this: fear of change to the future political composition of society, the socio-political character of the state of Israel, and the low rates of participation of two communities – Haredi and Arab – in the workforce and their significant influence on poverty in Israel.” Jerusalem, where a discourse on this issue has flourished for decades already, has preceded Israel.

In 2009 the total fertility rate (the number of children a woman is expected to birth during her life) was 4.0 children, which is higher by a third than the figure for Israel – 3.0 children. The fertility rate of Jewish women in Jerusalem (4.3) is significantly higher than that for Jewish women in Israel (3.0). The explanation for this lies in the higher proportion of haredi and religious women in Jerusalem compared to Israel. These women are characterized by high fertility rates – 7.5 children for haredi women and 4.3 children for religious women, compared to 2.1 children for secular women. The fertility rate of Arab women in Jerusalem (3.9) is also higher than the figure for Arab women in Israel (3.5), but the difference is smaller.
An examination of the patterns of change of fertility rates reveals that during the past decade the fertility rates of Jewish women in Israel and in Jerusalem have risen. Among Arab and Muslim women in Israel and in Jerusalem the trend has been in the opposite direction, with a decrease in fertility rates.

And now for the news: in 2009, for the first time, the fertility rate of Jewish women in Jerusalem (4.3) was higher than the fertility rate of Arab women (3.9) and was even higher than that of Muslim women (3.9).