Amish Migration Trends 2008-2012

Highlights of Interstate Household Migration

Migration Patterns. Although most Amish families remain rooted in the areas where they were born and raised, others move within their home state or to other states. Each year a steady stream of Amish families moves in and out of many of the 30 states (and the province of Ontario) with Amish settlements. This summary focuses on the migration of households (family units of one couple or one couple with their children) in or out of a state or province; it does not include intrastate migrations.

2008-2012 Migrations. Approximately 2,400 Amish households moved across state lines in the five-year period from 2008 through 2012. The moves likely involved some 12,000 people (assuming five persons per household).  See Migration 2008-2012 tables for details.

Gainers and Losers. Gainer states have a net increase of migrating families in the Amish shuffle each year. States with large, long-established Amish populations are more likely to be net losers because some Amish families flee as the suburbs encroach on older Amish communities. The impact the gain or loss of families has on a particular state’s Amish community depends on the size of the state’s Amish population. See Migration Top Eight tables for details.

Top Gainer States. Two states had a net gain of more than 100 immigrant Amish families over the five-year period: New York (264) and Kentucky (129). Illinois, Maine, and Nebraska each had a net gain of 41immigrant families, which is especially significant for Maine and Nebraska because of their small Amish populations.

Top Loser States. The three states with the highest net loss of households were Pennsylvania (355), Wisconsin (125), and Ohio (52). They were followed by Indiana (47) and Missouri (35). Wisconsin had 202 new immigrant families since 2008, but it lost 327 families, yielding a net deficit of 125 households. Pennsylvania, home to the largest Amish population in 2012 (65,270), welcomed 121 arrivals from other states but lost 476, for a net loss of 355 families. For states such as Delaware, with a small Amish population of 1,500, the loss of 31 families over the past five years has a far greater impact than a similar size loss would have for Amish-heavy states such as Ohio, Indiana, or Pennsylvania. 

Push Factors for Migration. 
Amish migration is influenced by both reasons for leaving (push) and reasons that entice families to a new state (pull). Push reasons may include (1) suburban congestion and sprawl, (2) high land prices, (3) tourism and other intrusive outside influences, (4) disputes with municipal authorities over issues such as zoning, (5) weak regional economies, (6) occupational changes (closing of markets, jobs, factories), and (7) church-related troubles or disputes.

Pull Factors in Migration. The following reasons, among others, may entice families to migrate to a new state: (1) fertile farmland at reasonable prices, (2) non-farm work in specialized occupations, (3) rural isolation that supports a traditional, family-based lifestyle, (4) hospitable social and physical environments (climate, governments, services, economy) conducive to the Amish way of life, and (5) proximity to family or other similar Amish church groups.

Note: The data includes all Amish groups (Old Order and New Order) that use horse-and-buggy transportation, but excludes car-driving groups such as the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites.

Sources: Settlement reports provided by scribes in various Amish publications, annual migration reports published in The Diary, and informants in various settlements.

To cite this page: “Amish Migration Trends 2008-2012.” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College.
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