Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

September 2006


This paper examines patterns of denominational switching and the characteristics of switchers within Judaism in the United States. Viewing Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism and a fourth "non-specific" group as categories that range from the most traditional to the least traditional respectively, it focuses on the movement of individuals toward or away from a more traditional denomination in comparison with remaining in the same denomination in which they were raised. Data used to conduct this study are drawn from the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 (National Jewish Population Survey [NJPS] 2003).

We found that 62% stay within the same group, 29% move away from tradition, and 9% move to a more traditional denomination. Multivariate logistic regression analyses show that a lower level of Jewish background, higher previous travel to Israel, a greater extent of organizational affiliation, and a higher level of spiritual feelings and beliefs are associated with moving to a more traditional denomination whereas a higher level of Jewish background, lower previous travel to Israel, and a lower level of spiritual feelings and beliefs are associated with moving to a less traditional denomination. In addition, a few sociodemographic factors (previously married, has a child at home, lives in a Western state) are associated with movement toward tradition whereas others (older age, female, not living in the Northeast or West) are associated with movement in the other direction.


Postprint version. Published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Volume 45, Issue 3, September 2006, pages 437-447.
Publisher URL:


switching, denomination, Judaism, NJPS



Date Posted: 27 February 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.