A recent article (Lancaster Online) on the Lancaster Amish and development pressure brought some interesting facts about the county’s Amish population to the forefront.
Most of these are from that article, with some additions and explanation by me.
5 Facts About Lancaster County’s Amish Population
1. The largest community – Lancaster County is home to an estimated 33,143 Amish, according to estimates from the Young Center.
The community itself is larger than this, since the county’s borders do not contain all the community’s Amish. Some live in neighboring Chester and York counties, and are still considered part of the Lancaster settlement.
There are an estimated 38,095 Amish in the settlement as of 2018, when adding in the Amish living in Chester and York counties. This is the largest Amish settlement in the world.
2. Much of the county’s total growth – The Amish population in the county grows by over 1000 per year, which makes up 41% of the county’s total annual population growth. They are a big part of Lancaster’s yearly population increase.
3. Amish in the minority – Yet the Amish are still a minority in the county – they make up only about 6% of the total county population, which exceeds a half million.
We think of Lancaster County as an “Amish place”, and in a lot of ways it very much is that. But other Amish counties like Holmes County, Ohio, and Lagrange County, Indiana, are much more Amish as a proportion of the total population.
The Amish have long had an outsized influence as far as the identity of the county. And they have been a key economic driver especially when considering tourism dollars (over 8 million people visit Lancaster County annually). I would also guess that when it comes to land ownership, they would well exceed 6%.
4. Long-term growth trend – In 1970 the Lancaster Amish tally stood at about 7,000. Having reached 33,000+ in the ensuing half-century, that means a nearly five-fold population increase.
The overall Amish growth rate works out to the population doubling roughly every 20 years.
What’s the cause of this growth? Amish have big families, and most of their children choose to be baptized into the church. Few outsiders join and stay within the Amish church, so their contribution to growth is negligible.
5. Development pressure – More than just about anywhere else, Amish in Lancaster County face development pressure. This has the negative effects of raising land prices and creating traffic congestion.
Last week we saw the story of a proposed casino on the edge of the community, which would bring with it additional concerns.
Meanwhile, another land use issue has been unfolding. A developer would like to build a 75-acre residential community in Manheim township. This would mean over 550 new residential units. About 1200 Amish from 250 households live within 2 miles of the proposed project.
At a recent public hearing, Donald Kraybill gave the Amish perspective, sharing that about a dozen Amish had told him road safety is a big concern. Kraybill suggested that Amish may leave the area if the development was built.
A decision on the development is expected next month, which is also when the Gaming Control Board plans to vote on the casino.
May will be an important month shaping future development in Lancaster County, and its impact on the local community, Amish and others included.