Press Release

The Inaugural Annual Statistical Report on Arab Society in Israel


The Annual Statistical Report on Arab Society was published today for the first time by the Israel Democracy Institute. The Report provides an overview of the changes that have taken place in Arab society in recent decades in a number of fields, including education, employment, and lifestyle.

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The editors of the Statistical Report on Arab Society, Dr. Nasreen Haddad Haj Yahya, Dr. Muhammed Khalaily and Dr. Arik Rudnitzky, note that "internal developments that have taken place in Arab society in recent years are clearly reflected in the numbers and data presented in the Report. The rise in the standard of living, life expectancy and education, along with the decline in fertility rates, the change in the structure of the Arab family, and the desire to realize individual aspirations at the expense of collective values. These factors are undermining traditional patterns and revolutionizing Arab society.”

The IDI experts added: “There is no doubt that the real revolution that has taken place in Arab society over the past two decades is reflected in the dramatic rise in the indices of education. These factors are not only fermenting change within Arab society, but affecting Israelis as a whole thanks to the prominent presence of young men and women from Arab society in higher education and in the labor market. While there has been undeniable progress, the gaps in the quality of employment and the level of wages between Arabs and Jews have not yet closed, in part because of the severe economic crisis that has befallen Arab society in the past two years, following COVID-19. At the same time, the level of expectations and aspirations for the self-realization of the Arab citizens are on a steady upward trend.”


Population: At the end of 2020 the Arab population in Israel was about 1,957,270, representing 21.1% of the total Israeli population. This figure includes almost 362,000 Arab residents of East Jerusalem who hold "permanent resident" status. Thus, the number of Arabs who hold full citizenship was about 1,595,300, constituting some 17.2% of the country's population.

Geographical Distribution: 51.6% of the Arab citizens live in northern Israel, 19.7% in the ‘Triangle’ region in the center of the country, 17.5% in the Negev, 8.3% in the mixed cities (Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramla, Lod, Nof Hagalil and Maalot-Tarshiha), 1.1% in the Jerusalem Corridor (including West Jerusalem) and 1.8% in the rest of the country.

Municipal Status: Almost one half (49.3%) live in local councils and the vast majority of these - in 69 Arab local councils. 41% of Arab citizens live in cities, the large majority of them in 12 Arab cities and 7 mixed cities, and a small percentage in cities in which the majority of the population is Jewish. 5.5% of Arab citizens live in 47 small rural localities that are incorporated into regional councils. The rest (4.2%) live in localities that have no formal municipal status and are referred to as "unrecognized villages", most of them in the Negev. There are a total of 163 localities in which all residents are Arab citizens of Israel.

Religion: The large majority of Arab citizens of Israel are Muslims (82.9%), and the remainder are either Druze (9.2%) or Christians (7.9%).

Violence and Crime: There were 51 Arab murder victims in 2014, this figure has since risen to 94 in 2019, 113 in 2020 (96 men and 17 women), and 110 in 2021 (97 men and 13 women). Indeed, over the last decade, the number of murder victims in Arab society has almost tripled. At the same time, the number of Arab citizens wounded in shooting incidents increased more than threefold between 2016 and 2018, from 82 to 301.

Education System: The Arab education system of school age numbers 437,000 students, as of the academic year 2021/2020, which is about 24% of all students in Israel.

Infrastructure and Students: There has been an impressive increase in the number of students, schools and classrooms in the Arab education system. Accordingly, there was an increase in the number of classrooms from 675 in 1948 to 17,726 in 2020. In the 2020–2021 school year, the number of Arab students reached 437,000 (not including kindergartens), some 24% of the total school population in Israel.

Despite the increase in the number of schools and the decrease in class size, Arab schools still suffer from the impact of many years of discrimination. The situation is particularly severe in the Negev, where there is an acute shortage of schools and classrooms in Bedouin localities, and particularly in unrecognized Bedouin villages. In all the unrecognized villages, which are home to around 70,000 residents, there are only 10 elementary schools, and not a single secondary school.

Higher education: The rate of Arab undergraduate students in academic institutions in Israel has almost doubled in the last decade from 10% (22,268) in the 2010 academic year to 18.3% (43,454) in the academic year 2020. The proportion and number of Arab graduate students has almost tripled, from 6.5 % (3,270) in 2010 to 14.6% (9,252) in 2020, the proportion of Arabs studying for a PhD rose from 3.9% (413) in 2010 to 7.3% (855) in 2020.

Employment: Between 1995 and 2002, employment rates among Arab men declined steadily by more than 10 percentage points. In the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, Arab employment rates among men began to recover, against the backdrop of the recovery of the market as a whole from the dotcom crash and the Second Intifada. These rates then stagnated between 2017 and 2019, and even declined slightly. In 2020, following the outbreak of the pandemic in March, employment rates for Arab men dropped sharply to a low of 69.3%.

Similarly, employment rates for Arab women rose steadily from the mid-2000s. Between 2001 and 2018 the rate almost doubled, climbing from 19.8% to 38.2%.

One of the main factors behind the relatively low employment rates for Arab men and women is their low level of education. At the higher levels of education - undergraduate and above - the gaps between Arabs and Jews in employment rates are almost completely erased. On the other hand, in the low levels of education, the chances of Arabs entering the labor market are considerably lower compared to Jews with the same level of education.

Another key factor in wage gaps between Jews and Arabs is the relatively limited range of industries in which Arab employees are employed, mainly – sectors that pay low salaries on average and do not require highly skilled labor.

Fertility: The overall fertility rate among Arab women is 2.98 (as of 2019) live births per woman, with significant differences among different geographical regions. The fertility rate for women in the Bedouin community in the Negev (5.26) is almost twice as high as that for Arab women in Northern Israel (2.36 in the Northern district, 2.61 in the Haifa district) and in the Triangle (2.69). The highest fertility rate was measured among Muslim women (3.16), followed by Druze women (2.02) and Christian women (1.76). In the past, the overall fertility rate among Arab women was almost twice as high as that among Jewish women, but has steadily declined over the past two decades, and the gap has largely disappeared. Today the fertility rate among Jewish women (3.09) similar to that among Muslim women.

Infant Mortality: Over the last two decades infant mortality rates among Arab citizens have declined steadily, but they are still twice as high as in Jewish society: 5.3 compared to 2.2 per 1,000 live births in 2019. In Negev Bedouin localities, the average infant mortality rate is twice as high (9.6) as the average rate in Arab localities in the North (4.1) and in the triangle (4.2).

Life Expectancy: Life expectancy has increased by 3 years in the last two decades, similarly to the increase among Jews. However, Life expectancy for Arab men and or women is the same as the life expectancy for Jewish men and women 20 years ago.

Quality of life and standard of living: 95% of the Arab localities, in which almost 90% of the Arab citizens live, are in the four lowest clusters socio-economically, 11% of which are ranked in the lowest cluster. In contrast, only 17% of Jewish localities are in the lowest clusters, 1–4.

Household Expenditures: The average monthly expenditure for Arab families rose significantly from NIS 6,924 in 2004 to NIS 9,340 in 2017. This increase is reflected in almost all areas. Thus, the expenses associated with housing increased from NIS 761 (11% of the total expenditure) per month to NIS 1,230 (13.2% of the total expenditure), and transportation and travel increased significantly from NIS 862 (12.4% of the total expenditure). In 2004 to NIS 1,589 (17% of the total expenditure) in 2017.

** Data from the Arab Society Yearbook are based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, ministries and government authorities, the National Insurance Institute, the Galilee Association and the Abraham Fund.