I was watching the tv series “Community” and it just so happened that I tuned into an episode that had the most original (and racist) joke of all time. A character on the show, Pierce Hawthorne, a bigoted, 60 year old millionaire played by comedy legend Chevy Chase says “Why do Jews wear a Yumika? Well it’s simple, half a hat, it’s cheaper.” So that got me thinking, are Jewish people really cheap and where in the world did this offensive stereotype originate? Well we know where these stereotypes caught steam. Jews were depicted as greedy “scheming merchants” because well obviously the Nazi’s were jealous of their success. And obviously greedy merchants are cheap. (Source:http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/imagesjews.html)
Community’s pierce hawthorne
As you can imagine I fired up my computer and started to do some research. Using some of the facts and figures I learned, I hope to shed some light on this popularly held belief. What should I use as a measuring stick though? What statistics can I look at to prove a certain ethnic/religious group isn’t cheap? Total market spending? If I used that as a measuring stick that would not be very convincing. I mean, if you spend your money willy nilly, you are stupid. And I’d rather be called cheap than stupid.
So what is CHEAP? I am sure when the word is used against Jewish people it means STINGY. Ok, now we have a working definition. Let’s see how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines Stingy:
not generous or liberal : sparing or scant in using, giving, or spending <stingy with the salt> <stingy employee benefits>
Perfect. Now that we are talking about stinginess, we can easily use a few facts and figures to prove a certain group is not stingy or not generous or liberal with their money. Generosity can be measured in terms of charitable givings and as you would expect, I took a look at a few statistics regarding charity donations in the last 10 years.
Here are my findings:
First, being affiliated with a religious group drastically increases your chances of giving to charity. In the US for example, red states, i.e republican states with heavy church presences dominated charitable givings in 2012-2013. For example
The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the South gives roughly 5.2% of its discretionary income to charity
Ok so far so good. From here on, it would make sense to search for which particular religious group dominates in giving to charity . And here I am looking at the figures in the United States because Jewish people are one of the most affluent groups in the country. Here again I was surprised with the figures. I did not believe the stereotype in the first place but I did not expect Jewish Americans to be #1 in the alms race. Now mind you, the total charity donations in the US is NOT a small number. The average household contributed $2,213 to charity in 2012 and over 65% of households give to charity(Source:http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics) That is a LOT of money. So when we say Jewish Americans are #1 in donating to charity, that speaks volumes.
a tzedakah or charity pouch
According to Pacific Standard magazine, a recent study showed:
Jewish families in the U.S. are more likely than their christian counterparts to contribute to charities focusing on providing basic necessities.
Wait, I’m not done yet. Jewish families are more likely to give but are also more likely to give larger amounts according to economist Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm. These figures are based on data from 2001, 2003 and 2005 and you can read the full article here: http://www.psmag.com/culture/jewish-americans-win-alms-race-22297.
So are Jewish people cheap? CERTAINLY NOT.