Anti-Semitism and Religious Schools

Last week AEI hosted an event at which I presented a new paper by Cari A. Bogulski and me examining the relationship between the type of school people attended when they were children and their attitudes toward Jews as adults. We find that the more people attended religious private schools as children, the less anti-Semitic they are. Secular private schools resemble public schools in the average level of anti-Semitism among their former students.

Of course, we were not able to randomly assign people to different types of school, so we cannot be confident that this relationship is causal. But the relationship holds true after controlling for a variety of background characteristics. It is still possible that adults who attended religious schools have more favorable attitudes toward Jews because of unobserved advantages but this seems unlikely given that the generally more advantaged families who send children to non-religious private schools do not appear to yield lower anti-Semitism. And we do not typically think of families who choose to send their children to mostly Christian religious schools as doing so because of a particular affinity toward Jews .

Why might religious schooling be associated with lower anti-Semitism? Prior research has found a general link between private education and higher tolerance, so this may just be consistent with that. But the fact that the effect is restricted to religious schools is somewhat unexpected. Perhaps religious institutions that operate schools, most of which are Christian, have adopted a much more favorable orientation toward Jews than is widely appreciated.

Many Jewish organizations have been slow to recognize that historically hostile groups may now be allies (and some traditional allies may be turning more hostile). Perhaps these findings may motivate several Jewish organizations to reconsider their opposition to private school choice programs.

For more details be sure to read the paper and watch the video above.

—Jay P. Greene

This post originally appeared on Jay P. Greene’s blog

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