Amish Population Trends 1991-2010

Twenty-Year Highlights

Population. In the 20-year period from 1991 to 2010, the Amish of North America (adults and children) doubled in population, increasing from 123,550 in 1991 to 249,500 in 2010, an overall growth of 102 percent. See Population Change 1991-2010 tables for details.

States. Amish communities are located in 28 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Over the 20-year period, seven states (Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Dakota, and West Virginia) welcomed new Amish residents. During the same period, a small settlement in Georgia disbanded, leaving a net gain of six new states.

Settlements. In the 20-year period, the Amish show a net gain of 212 settlements (geographical communities), growing from 215 settlements in 1991 to 427 settlements in 2010—an increase of 99 percent. Approximately 11 new settlements were established per year during these two decades. New settlements are typically small, with only a few families in a single congregation (church district). Older settlements such as those in the Holmes County, Ohio, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, area include over 150 districts. Larger settlements may have several different subgroups whereas smaller ones typically have just one subgroup.

Districts. The number of local districts (congregations), each of which consists of 20 to 40 families, grew from 898 to 1,826, an increase of 928 (103 percent) in the 20-year period. See Population Change 1991-2010 summary tables for details.

Big Three States. Historically, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have claimed about two-thirds of the North American Amish population. Their share of the Amish pie declined since 1991, from 71.2 percent to 64.7 percent in 2010.

High Growth States. Ten states enjoyed increases of more than 100 percent in their Amish population during the 20-year period: Montana (400 percent), Virginia (300 percent), Kentucky (226 percent), New York (207 percent), Tennessee (183 percent), Minnesota (178 percent), Missouri (153 percent), Wisconsin (150 percent), Illinois (133 percent), and Iowa (122 percent). All of these state increases were above the state/provincial average of 102 percent.

Slow Growth States. Several states had sluggish growth, significantly below the overall average of 102 percent: Maryland (67 percent), Oklahoma (25 percent), and Delaware (13 percent). Texas, with three districts in 1991, dropped to one by 2010, a decline of 67 percent.

Reasons for Population Growth. The primary forces driving the growth are sizeable nuclear families (five or more children on average) and an average retention rate (Amish children who join the church as young adults) of 85 percent or more. A few outsiders occasionally join the Amish, but the bulk of the growth is from within their own community.

Reasons for New Settlement Growth. The Amish establish new settlements in states that already have Amish communities as well as in “new” states for a variety of reasons that may include: (1) fertile farmland at reasonable prices, (2) non-farm work in specialized occupations, (3) rural isolation that supports their traditional, family-based lifestyle, (4) social and physical environments (climate, governments, services, economy) conducive to their way of life, (5) proximity to family or other similar Amish church groups, and sometimes to (6) resolve church or leadership conflicts.

Notes: Settlement and district statistics were updated in July 2010. Population figures (adults and children) are estimates calculated by using state-sensitive averages of the estimated number of people per church district. The population per district varies by region, community, affiliation, and age of the district. Thus the actual number of people in a specific district or state may be higher or lower than the estimates in these tables. The national composite average per district is 136.6. The table 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: For the 1991 data, see David Luthy, “Amish Settlements Across America: 1991,” Family Life, April 1992, pp. 19-24. Sources for the 2010 data include Raber’s Almanac, reports of correspondents in Amish publications, the annual migration report in The Diary, state and regional settlement directories, and informants in settlements.

To cite this page: “Amish Population Trends 1991-2010, 20-Year Highlights.” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College.

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