Once, an Amish acquaintance with an interest in numbers showed me a few calculations.

He had worked out the theoretical Amish population far into the future, using the assumption that it doubles every 20 years.

The numbers get big quickly.  Total Amish population (currently 250,000) hits a million sometime in the 2050s, and rockets from there.

A recent academic study (on the spread of a “religion gene“) touches on the same topic.  The study’s author uses a similar calculation to predict 7 million Amish by 2100.

Amish population growth

To put this in perspective, 7 million Amish would be:

  • nearly 30 times today’s Amish population
  • about equal to the current population of Washington state
  • larger than the present population of Denmark, Paraguay, and about 100 other countries

Population sizes in advanced nations are mostly declining.  This is mainly due to a low birthrate.  Most European nations have birthrates well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per woman.   The US rate is much closer, at about 2.05.   Amish dwarf that however, with about 6 children per woman.

Of course, the Amish birth rate could decrease (evidence suggests it already has, slightly; read more on Amish birth rates), or the percentage of youth baptized Amish (currently around 85%) could also go down.

Or, adult members could assimilate with non-Amish society at a higher rate, even in mass numbers.  This is what happened in the second half of the 1800s.  Progressive trends left the Old Order population reduced by 2/3, to about 5000 individuals by the year 1900 (see Steven Nolt’s A History of the Amish, p.231).

How long will Amish continue to grow at present rates?  Is 7 million Amish by the turn of the century feasible?  What would our society look like with a much more “Amish” population?  Our roads?

Could we ever see a day when Amish live in all 50 states?  Okay, Hawaii and Alaska are longshots (though I do like the image of Amish buggies meandering past active Hawaiian volcanoes or the chance of an Alaska Amish community on the frozen tundra), but in recent years Amish have started new communities everywhere from Maine to Mississippi to Montana.

And I wonder–in which states would Amish be least likely to settle?

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