Arab Residents of Mixed Cities: A Snapshot
This study aims to provide an up-to-date snapshot of the current situation in mixed cities alongside a description of trends in Israel’s mixed cities over time, in five closely related fields—welfare, education, higher education, employment, and crime—by presenting data collected over a period of time, as a critically important input to sound policymaking.
The study’s main findings are as follows:
Between 2008 and 2018 there was a significant increase in household income among both Jewish and Arab families in mixed cities. However, while the increase among Jewish households over this decade was on the average-NIS 9,000, the increase among Arab households was only a little over NIS 5,000—similar to that among the Arab population in Israel as a whole. In other words, the gaps between the two populations have only grown larger. Furthermore, the average rise in income does not in and of itself provide an accurate picture, as it obscures the fact that more than one-third of Arab households in mixed cities live in poverty. That is, alongside the rise in income for some Arab households in mixed cities, a large share of this population is still living under the poverty line, at a rate two-and-a-half times higher than among Jewish residents. Among children, more than 45% live in poverty-that is, four-and-a-half times the equivalent figure for Jewish children in mixed cities. The high percentage of young people— (under the age of 20) in the Arab population in mixed cities compared with the Jewish population (38% versus 24%, respectively) shows that Arab families with large numbers of children in mixed cities are at a higher risk of poverty. Moreover, the gaps within the Arab population have also grown larger.
There are grounds for concern that more families will fall below the poverty line, in light of the fact that the level of expenses is similar among Jewish and Arab households, despite, the very different levels of income between the two groups—in both individual and household income. In effect, every month we are witnessing an increase in debt among Arabs in mixed cities, while their Jewish counterparts are able, on average, to save some money. Clearly, the rise in income for Arab households in mixed cities does not cover the even sharper rise in expenses, which may lead many Arab households into an extended financial crisis.
In this context, another worrying finding from the study is fact that municipal social services in mixed cities are to a large extent not adapted to Arab culture and unsuited to the needs of Arab families, and so -are hardly the "address" for these families. The difference between Jews and Arabs in mixed cities in terms of the number of applicants for welfare services per 1,000 residents is greater than the difference between Jews and Arabs nationally (excluding mixed cities): in mixed cities, 103.4 for Arabs versus 81.4 for Jews; and nationally (excluding mixed cities), 123.1 versus 69, respectivelyAll these figures refer to the number of applicants per 1,000 residents within each population group, and only to those with a defined welfare need. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, “welfare need” is “the reason for which the individual applied or was referred to the social services department.”. The outcome is that Arab residents of homogeneous Arab towns tend to seek help from their municipal welfare departments, which are considered relatively weak, whereas paradoxically-Arab residents of mixed cities, who are generally not better off than the average Arab population in Arab towns, are less likely to apply to their local welfare department for assistance, despite the fact that these departments function better and have more resources. One of the explanations for this, which has been repeatedly cited in the State Comptroller reports, is the relatively low number of Arab social workers employed by municipalities in mixed cities, who would be able to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate services.
Anyone hoping that the Arab education system in mixed cities will be able to promote social mobility and enable the next generation to escape poverty, is likely to be disappointed by the study findings.
First, the matriculation eligibility rate for Arab boys in mixed cities is below 50%, lower than the national average for the Arab population (excluding mixed cities) and far lower than the average for Jewish boys in mixed cities. Close examination of the quality of matriculation results, as shown for example in the percentage of those eligible for matriculation in five units in mathematics (the highest level), reveals even greater gaps. The percentage of Jewish boys in mixed cities attaining five-unit matriculation in math is around three times higher than that of Arab boys (22% versus 7%, respectively) and among girls- 19% versus 7%, respectively. Here too, Arabs in mixed cities rank below the national average for the Arab population in homogeneous Arab localities. One optimistic note regarding education can be found in the rate of eligibility for five matriculation units in a science subject (physics, biology, chemistry, or computer science). This is the only parameter in which Arab girls rank above average in the mixed cities (with the exception of Tel Aviv-Yafo) and above the national average, and in which Arab boys outperform their Jewish counterparts in three of the seven mixed cities (Ma’alot Tarshicha, Nof Hagalil, and Akko).
One of the study's most robust findings regarding education and academic achievement is that parents’ level of education has the strongest impact on their children’s education. In addition, the same factor has a significant effect on entry level into the job market and on salaries. The fact that mixed cities, in which the population has a lower socioeconomic profile, are also the cities in which the investment in education is the lowest, (as the study shows) has a compounded impact on the entrenchment, and even-the exacerbation- of inequality. In the 2018–19 school year, for example, the average budget allocation per student in Jewish middle schools in Lod was 18% higher than in Arab middle schools. In addition, Jewish high schools in Lod, Ramle, and Akko were budgeted between 24% and 36% higher than Arab high schools in those cities.
During the pandemic, Israeli pupils were forced to transition to distance learning. A report published in 2020 brought the situation of poor Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities to the fore- that is, locales in which there was a significant scarcity of access to the necessary tools for online learning (internet connection, computer, and so on) Jafar Farah, Arab Society and the COVID-19 Crisis 21 (2020).. The data from our study confirm that access to the internet and to computers is a problem which undoubtedly affects both Arab students and the ability of Arab workers to work remotely. While internet access among Arab households in mixed cities has significantly increased in recent year, and today around three-quarters of them have internet subscriptions, compared with the national average for the Arab population, of just one-half of households. At the same time, this still means that a quarter of Arab households in mixed cities remain unconnected to the internet.
With regard to the role of after-school non-formal education, the study data reveal that here too, Arab residents of mixed cities have no clear advantage, as compared with the national average for the Arab public, despite the fact that access is greater in the mixed cities. This may stem from the fact that non-formal education programs in Arab localities do not operate in mixed cities. The Jewish population in mixed cities participates in afterschool clubs and activities at a rate almost four times higher than the Arab population in these cities. Even more disturbing is the fact that over the course of the decade examined in our research, there has been almost no change in this respect, in contrast with the sharp increase in participation in non-formal education in Arab towns and among Jewish residents in mixed cities.
A school system from which less than half of students graduate with a matriculation certificate is hardly a springboard to higher education. And indeed, only around 11% of Arab men in mixed cities hold an academic degree, a statistic which has not significantly improved throughout the decade studied (2008–2018). The same is not true of the situation among Arab women in mixed cities (and Arab women in general), who are entering higher education in growing numbers. Here it should be noted that in some of the mixed cities, such as Ramle and Lod, the percentage of Arab men with a degree is much lower than the average, at around just 5%.
The disadvantaged status of Arab men in mixed cities can also be seen in employment data, with employment rates among men in the poorest cities being especially low: Ramle, at 52.5%, and Lod, at 62.1%, both of which have experienced a sharp decline in Arab male employment between 2015 and 2019. This period has also seen a drop in employment rates for Arab men in Yafo and in Akko. When it comes to Arab women in mixed cities, as with their increased participation in higher education, so their employment rates are higher than the national average for Arab women, and these rates have risen considerably in recent years. All the same, there remains a gap between the employment rates for Arab and Jewish women in mixed cities (55% and 62%, respectively).
Overall, the trends with regard to higher education and employment noted above are not unique to Arab men in mixed cities, but rather are characteristic of the general Arab male population in Israel.
The bleak horizon for the future among Arab residents of mixed cities help explain the high levels of crime. Between 2014 and 2019, the percentage of Arabs in the total number of convicted criminals in mixed cities rose by 5 percentage points, from 30% to 35%. This compares with an average rise of 3 percentage points nationally (excluding mixed cities), from 33% to 36%. Specifically, in a number of mixed cities the percentage of Arabs among convicted criminals rose noticeably between 2014 and 2019: in Haifa, from 27% to 36%; in Lod, from 50% to 52% (similarly, there was a rise from 48% to 50% in Lod between 2009 and 2014); and in Tel Aviv-Yafo-from 19% to 21%. To the extent that the number of convictions reflects the level of crime, these figures indicate a troubling increase. The higher proportion of Arabs among convicted criminals can be seen not only among adults, but also among minors. Thus, Arabs constituted 35% of adult convicted criminals in mixed cities in 2019; 2.7 times higher than their relative share in the general population; while in the same year-among minors, Arabs constituted 51% of convicted criminals in mixed cities, almost twice their relative share in the population of mixed cities.
The harsh socioeconomic reality revealed by this study is not necessarily unique to Arabs in mixed cities. For the most part it is shared by Arabs in Arab towns and locales and even by Jews living below the poverty line. However, the low socioeconomic status of Arabs in mixed cities, is accompanied by underrepresentation in the municipal political and professional arenas, exposure to rising crime and violence, and tensions between Arabs and Jews which occasionally threaten to boil over. This combination of factors demands urgent government intervention. Broadly speaking, such an intervention should focus on education and higher education for Arab boys and men in mixed cities, and on employment for Arab women. Similarly, we believe that in addition to providing responses to the needs of mixed cities overall, responses must also be tailored to the specific needs of each.