14 June 2011
 

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The aim of this paper is to establish a multi-annual series on fertility rates and to analys the fertility rates among Jewish and Muslim women in Israel, by levels of religiosity. The series will be based on data from the social survey conducted by the CBS during the period 2002-2009, which provide a substantial sample of Jewish and Muslim women who responded to questions about their levels of religiosity. All of the women were linked to the Population Register, and all of their births between 1979 and 2009 (by the year of birth of each child, including children that died) were reconstructed. In that way, it is possible to construct a series of estimates of specific fertility rates by age as well as estimates of total fertility rates by the women's levels of religiosity, using the birth history method.
 
The assumption underlying the calculation of fertility estimates by levels of religiosity based on reconstruction of the women listed in the Population Register and their births was that level of religiosity remains constant over time. Examination of the difference between the level of religiosity in the woman's parental home at the age of 15 versus the woman's level of religiosity at the time of the survey clearly showed that the above-mentioned assumption of constancy in religiosity is correct only among 64% of the researched people. However, the impact of changes in levels of religiosity on fertility levels was found to be insignificant.
  
Among the Jewish women, the series of estimates for total fertility and specific fertility by age in 1979-2009 were calculated according to five levels of religiosity, as examined in the social survey: ultra-Orthodox, religious, traditionalreligious, traditional non-religious, and non-religious/secular. The results revealed a positive correlation between the woman's level of religiosity and her level of fertility: the more religious the woman was, the higher her level of fertility.
   
Similarly, among the Muslim women, the series of estimates for total fertility and specific fertility by age in 1979-2009 were calculated according to three levels of religiosity, as examined in the social survey: very religious, religious, and nonreligious (including those whose response was "not so religious"). In contrast to the Jewish women, no clear correlation was found between the Muslim women's levels of religiosity and their levels of fertility. The differences that existed were minimal, and the levels of fertility among the "religious" Muslim women were higher than they were among the "very religious" women.
 
The main contribution of this study lies in the establishment, for the first time, of a multi-annual series on fertility rates by level of religiosity. This series has been lacking in the public discourse on differences between various religious groups in Israel – particularly with regard to differences in fertility rates among ultra-Orthodox women versus other groups. 


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