Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities

Sponsor(s): Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner (BJPA), Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA), NYU Wagner

Principal Investigator(s): David M. Elcott

Study Dates: July, 2009

Key Findings:

The Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities report by David M. Elcott summarizes the results of the 2009 "Jewish Encore Survey," which was designed to test  the hypothesis that American Baby Boomers (Americans born 1946-1964), in contrast to previous generations, will behave differently as they approach traditional retirement age, will increasingly be part of the work force, and will thereby " a stage of life [and work] from about 60-80 years old, and as they do, force shifts in communal institutions currently ill-suited to this re-conceived vision." 

The Jewish Encore Survey ultimately received 12,139 responses from Jewish persons identified through connections to Jewish organizations (mostly Federations) in over 30 U.S. communities. Of these survey responses, over 67% were from Jewish Boomers.  Many of the questions replicated the 2008 Met Life Foundation/Civic Ventures survey. 

Major findings from the Executive Summary:

1. Wealthier and more educated Baby Boomers are not likely to seek retirement in the traditional sense at 65. In fact, nearly 80 percent are prepared to consider an Encore career in some form of public service.

2. Jews are potentially less likely than other educated and wealthy Americans to seek out an Encore career in public service.

3. Jewish Baby Boomers are concerned about earning income (although not simply for economic security),as well as staying active and involved as they grow older.

4. The two most emphatically perceived needs for those interested in an Encore career are (a) flexible time and (b) staying active, productive, challenged and intellectually engaged.

5. Jewish professionals expressed great concerns that the demands Baby Boomers (both volunteers and those seeking paid positions) will place on Jewish institutions are more than these institutions can handle. Jewish institutions are not prepared or preparing for an influx of Baby Boomers as volunteers or Encore career professionals.

6. Jewish Baby Boomers would prefer being helped by Jewish communal agencies in finding meaningful Encore activities and would also prefer to serve the wider American society through Jewish institutions, but they are also prepared to utilize non-Jewish
resources if the services and opportunities they seek are not available in the Jewish community.

7. The majority of Jewish Baby Boomers do not at this time see either volunteer or paid Encore careers as a way to express their Jewish identity.

Sample Notes:

The Jewish Encore Survey collected data via the Internet from Jewish persons whose email addresses had been provided by either Jewish federations in over 30 U.S. communities, or  through synagogues, Jewish community centers, etc., when a Federation list was not available (see Appendix II for details on the 34 communities in the sample, and pages 10-12 of the report for a brief methodological summary).

The Jewish Encore survey replicated many questions from the 2008  Met Life Foundation/Civic Ventures survey which focused on Boomers and encore careers.  Comparisons of responses from this survey and the Jewish Encore Survey place the Jewish Internet survey data in context throughout the report. 

  • Appendices 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3 provide comparisons among the Jewish Encore Survey respondents and respondents from the Met Life/Civic Ventures Survey and NJPS 2000-01 (the National Jewish Population Survey) on education, marital status and income. 
  • Appendices 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6 compare Jewish Encore survey respondents and NJPS respondents in terms of  denominational identification, Jewish organizational affiliation and Jewish behaviors.

Quantitative data were also supplemented by a series of focus groups


Study Notes:

Frequency distributions from the Jewish Encore Survey are available at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU-Wagner, where they are described as data sets.   There are three data summaries organized by U.S. Jewish communities.  Data from Cleveland, Denver, Miami and Northern new Jersey are in frequency distributions #1; data from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago and Cincinnati are in frequency distribution #2; data from San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson and Phoenix are in frequency distribution #3.

Language: English