Population Trends 1992-2008

Sixteen-Year Highlights

Population. In the 16-year period from 1992 to 2008, the Amish of North America show an overall estimated population growth of 84 percent, increasing from 125,000 in 1992 to 231,000 in 2008. (Figures include adults and children.) This pattern of vigorous growth reflects the group’s longer term trend of doubling about every 20 years. See Population Change 1992-2008 tables for details.

States. Amish communities appear in 27 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Over the 16-year period, six new states (Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, and West Virginia) welcomed Amish residents. However, the newcomer states have a total of just 13 districts (congregations)—less than 1 percent of the total 1,710 districts in 2008.

Settlements. In the 16-year period, the Amish show a net gain of 184 settlements (geographical communities). This is an increase of 81 percent, from 226 settlements in 1992 to 410 in 2008. New settlements are typically small with a few families in one congregation (district). Older settlements such as that in the Holmes County, Ohio, area include over 200 districts. Larger settlements may have several different subgroups (affiliations), whereas smaller settlements typically have just one subgroup.

Districts. The number of local districts (congregations of 20 to 35 families) grew from 929 to 1,710, an increase of 781 (84 percent) in the 16-year period. See Population Change 1992-2008 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 1992, from 69 percent to 63 percent in 2008. All three of them (Ohio: 60 percent, Indiana: 72 percent, Pennsylvania: 73 percent) had a lower rate of increase than the state/provincial average of 84 percent.

High Growth States. Ten states enjoyed increases over 100 percent in their Amish population during the 16-year period: Virginia (400 percent), Kentucky (200 percent), Minnesota (156 percent), New York (150 percent), Montana (150 percent), Kansas (140 percent), Illinois (133 percent), Missouri (131 percent), Wisconsin (117 percent), and Tennessee (117 percent). All of these statewide increases were above the state/provincial average of 84 percent.

Slow Growth States. Several states had sluggish growth, significantly below the country-wide average of 85 percent: Maryland (67 percent), Oklahoma (25 percent), and Delaware (13 percent). Texas, with three districts in 1992, dropped to one in 2008, 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 5) resolve church or leadership conflicts.

Notes:

1. Population figures (which include adults and children) are estimates calculated by using a conservative average of 135 people per church district. The number of people per district varies by region, community, affiliation, and age of the district; therefore, the actual number of people in a specific district may be higher or lower than the average used in these tables. Population estimates are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

2. 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.

3. Stephen Scott, Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, gathered and compiled the data.

Sources: For 1992 data, David Luthy in Kraybill and Olshan, eds., The Amish Struggle with Modernity (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994), 243-259. For 2008 data, The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.

To cite this page: “Amish Population Growth 1992-2008 Highlights.” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College. http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/Population_Trends_1992_2008.asp.

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