Amish working on roof

Amish roofers hard at work.  Photo: Vanda Bidwell

Just what do the Amish do for a living nowadays?  The Amish have long been connected with farming.  But in reality, this association has become less and less accurate over the past few decades.  Published in 1995 (second edition 2004), Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt’s Amish Enterprise documents one of the most significant changes in Amish society, the shift from agricultural to entrepreneurial pursuits.

Today, different Amish communities have different occupational makeups.  Holmes County, Ohio and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are both highly entrepreneurial.  They differ in that Lancaster has a significantly higher percentage of Amish still involved in farming.  Allen County, Indiana is dominated by the construction industry, with many Amish operating contracting firms, and the number of full-time farmers having dwindled to nearly zero.

The northern Indiana community of Elkhart and Lagrange counties is notable for its high percentage of workers involved in factory work.  The most recent directory for this settlement is six years old, but one can still find some interesting statistics, specifically for the occupations of household heads.

Amish shop cleveland

photo: Amish-run store in downtown Cleveland, Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer

The directory lists factory work as by far the most popular category, with 1179 household heads reporting this type of employment.  Second comes farming, with 515.  A further 289 report a combination of farming with some other type of work, such as carpentry or factory work.

In this settlement, you’ll also find 5 rug weavers (suggesting that the ‘household heads’ category may also include females—widows or single women, for example), 13 teachers, 7 therapists, 1 painter, 1 printer, 12 blacksmiths, 3 accountants, 2 bakers, and 200 woodworkers (read more: Amish furniture-Indiana).

The directory also points out that besides household heads, there are likely three times as many more Amish over the age of 18 in the labor force in the community.

Somewhat dated numbers, but nonetheless an interesting indication of the diversity of employment in North America’s third-largest Amish settlement.

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