What Jewish College Students Really Think about Gender Roles

A just-released study on America’s Jewish college freshmen holds some surprises not covered in the accompanying press release. Among other things, the Hillel-sponsored study reveals that raising a family now ranks as these students’ most important life goal. (In a 1977 survey, raising a family ranked third.) Nearly half of the students reported that their mothers have earned a graduate degree, compared with less than 15 per cent of the mothers of non-Jewish students. In addition, the survey reveals a sharp decline in the percentage of students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, with stay-at-home mothers: nearly half of all mothers in 1971, compared to today’s only 8.9 percent of Jewish mothers and 11.4 percent of non-Jewish.

All of which seems to indicate that we’ve made progress towards integrating the sometimes seemingly incompatible goals of Jewish continuity with women’s equality. But not so fast. Despite the large number of Jewish families with working mothers, the study also reveals that over 19 percent of Jewish students believe that the activities of married women are best confined to the home and family