7 Million Amish by 2100?

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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    23 Comments

    1. Michelle V

      Hi Erik –
      My “little” brother is a police officer in Tampa, recently in FL we have lost far too many of our heros in the line of duty in just the past 3 weeks.
      Since my father is Basque my brother and dad have a pretty rare blood type – AB(+) so as a family we give blood often .
      I was wondering what blood type is prevalent among the Amish?

    2. Alice Aber

      Hi Erik,

      Fascinating statistics. I am curious too about the growing population. I hope this does not offend anyone as that is not my intention. But how many marry within their families, such as a first cousin? And how would that effect the children they have? I am sure we have all heard of stories of “inbreeding”. So how does that come into play, especially when very few “outsiders” join the Amish.

      Do you think more “outsiders” would be allowed to join for “procreation” purposes? I have often wondered about the “community” of Amish being pretty much related to each other, how on earth do they find mates that they are not already related to?

      I mean no offense to anyone by these questions. I am just really curious about this.

      Blessings, Alice

    3. Mona

      We all are curious about this also Alice…..can’t understand the Amish marrying their cousins……I have always wondered this…perhaps this is one of their rules they could put in their Ordung…..just seems there are too many people in this world to marry cousins…..

    4. There are higher rates of certain genetic traits among the Amish, but generally, these are not harmful (dwarfism, polydactylism, with rarer forms of these genetic variations occasionally accompanied by heart and colon abnormalities). Amish are probably no more closely related to each other genetically than other close-knit groups I know. As for whether 2-7 million people of the same ethnic and religious background will make a difference – probably; this has been the case in large migrations of European or Asian groups into both rural and urban areas. I would hope that the rest of the population would take good examples from Amish neighbours, rather than the Amish becoming more liberal in cultural adaptation.

    5. Cannot understand why Amish have not settled in Idaho!
      Climate is great and lots of farm land.
      Am looking forward to that day!!

    6. Richard

      I think in time, every state in the union will have Amish settlements, except maybe New jersey. No explanation needed,lol. Im kidding folks, really,lol. Richard. lebanon,pa

    7. Henry

      I think with the mass number of people leaving the amish we don’t have to expect it to reach near that if anything it might be extinct till then.

    8. Amish cousin marriage?

      Amish do not practice marriage between cousins, at least not first cousins. With more distant relations, yes it may occur. In some communities it can be difficult to find someone you are not related to, at least distantly. The Lancaster settlement was founded by 2-3 dozen families; as another example almost all Amish in this settlement share a common ancestor named Nicholas Stoltzfus.

      Outsiders have joined over time, but it is not that common. You do see some less common names that can be an indication of someone whose predecessors joined later. I don’t really think the Amish have procreation purposes in mind when they consider outsiders joining, though it is an interesting question.

      Michelle, I do not know what blood type might be prevalent among Amish, perhaps someone on here can comment on that.

    9. Richard nice one. Actually I’ve heard Jersey has some beautiful farmland upstate. I guess “Garden State” has to have some basis. All I’ve ever seen of the place is interstates and traffic, unfortunately.

    10. Rusty I may be wrong but I believe there was at least one attempt to settle in Idaho. I’ll have a look see.

      Henry the reality is actually opposite to what you describe. The vast majority of Amish youth choose baptism, and once a member, leaving the church is uncommon.

    11. Bob Rosier

      I have noticed in my Amish Genealogy studies that often a Stoltzfus would marry a Fisher, for example, then brothers and sisters of that Stoltzfus family would marry other brothers and sisters of the same Fisher family. Makes sense with the limited distances, if you are a Stoltzfus and your closest neighbors are the Fishers, guess what?

    12. Michelle V

      Oh my my my I got my info backwards – my mom has AB(+) blood type and my dad has O RH(-)! The Basqes did not mix with outsiders all that much either.

      On leaving the Amish, I’ve read women leave more than men. Is that still the case in presnt time?

      Take care all and tomorrow is Monday (ugh!)
      Michelle V

    13. Monica

      They won’t settle in New Jersey but not for the reason you might think. Actually, there is already a heavy Amish presence in the state by way of Amish Markets that are owned and run by the Lancaster people. But the reason they won’t settle in the abundant farmlands of southern Jersey is the cost: It’s some of the most expensive land in the country. Except maybe Hawaii. Sorry!
      But Erik, I think you’re off about Alaska. There are already some Mennonite outreach churches up there that seem to be doing well. The land is inexpensive, and there are ways to make money. Oh, and the hunting possibilities are a draw. Keep your eye on Alaska!

    14. Amish settling in Alaska?

      Monica I was thinking the same on land prices, which I suppose would be the case in much of the northeast. Hard to see Amish buying up acreage in Connecticut or Rhode Island, f’rinstance.

      I agree those are all pluses on Alaska; I was mainly skeptical due to sheer distance. These very distant settlements in both recent and more distant history (British Columbia, Mexico, Honduras, even Oregon and Washington state) never seem to pan out.

      Alaska’s a 2-3 day drive before you get anywhere near other Amish settlements of note (though I guess the “tail” part of Alaska would be closer). However maybe things will look different in the year 2100 🙂

    15. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      I think the Amish would enjoy British Columbia for the potential to be isolated and left alone among the mountains (working open spaces in between, or ranching) or the coastlines. If certain Polygamist groups settled there and are noted in the news in this country, wouldn’t the province embrace the quietly conservative Amish!

      I hope the Amish and Mennonites don’t leave Ontario. I like them here.

      Thinking about this entry’s title I thought “7 million Amishmen can’t be wrong” sort of like “7 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong”, of course in using “Amishmen” I include women and children too.

    16. The same statistics are happening in Europe with the Muslims. I just read it this week, but dont remember where, so I cant link. Muslims are doubling every 20 years also.
      Well, some folks scheme up a “religious gene.” I tend to think that “righteousness exalteth a nation” and that the “meek shall inherit the earth.” That translates into “God will find ways to let unrighteous people self-destruct or self-degenerate while He lets people with morals and ethical integrity perpetuate.”
      While I am a Christian, I do believe that this applies to other religions who have moral and ethical values … i.e. God would rather the earth fill up with virtuous people who do not worship Him, rather than immoral people who do not worship Him.
      So atheistic people say the future is in the hands of our genes. I believe it is firmly in the Hands of the One who spoke vocal chords and ear drums into existence.
      Mike

    17. Julie Barkley

      The Muslims doubling every twenty years or so is mostly due to immigration, though. The birth rate is far less than the Amish one, probably between 3 and 4 children per woman, and the conversion rate is fairly high but not high enough to make much of a dent in the statistics. Ignore immigration and the growth rate is only a little higher than other populations.

      The Amish are doubling on birth rate alone. It amazes me to think that there are now 250,000 from a population in 1900 of about 5000!

    18. Beverly

      Adapted For The Future!

      As we reach the end of the Age of Oil, as well as very present need for frugality, the Amish will have a leg up on the rest of us and can show us the way. This may happen sooner than you think! All I can say is that we “English” are blessed to have them and the various Conservative Mennonites and Quakers.

      As people are suggesting places for the Amish may I nominate Utah? Especially northern Utah or down near Bryce? Altamont and Panguitch. One thing Brigham Young did right was to order very wide streets and roads. The streets were, and are still, wide enough to turn two teams of oxen. There is a small community of Conservative Mennonites in Tremonton, Utah whom the local Mormons and others regard highly. The real estate downturn and collapse of a number of manufacturing businesses has left the Tremonton/Malad Idaho area much more affordable than it was. The town is about and hour and a half north from Salt Lake City. Some nice CLEAN dairies and good non GMO crops are needed, badly.

    19. Richard

      As the USA sinks beneath the waves...

      Only those groups that are not onboard the sinking USA ‘titanic’ ship and system will make it through. The Amish, to the extent that they maintain their way of life, are in a very good position to do so.

      1. Bill Rushby

        American Resilience

        Richard: Don’t count the USA out yet. It is a large country, a democracy, with a diverse population and a willingness to adapt to change. I don’t think our country is on a Titanic trajectory, although we really need a moral revival IMHO.

        1. Mr Scott Drury

          Diversity is a weakness for a country. It’s pretty obvious a divided nation won’t stand.

    20. D Moore

      Looking for Amish/Mennonites to move to NJ

      I am working on economic development in Port Norris, New Jersey, a relatively small community in an economically depressed area. . We have many homes that are for sale and many farms and open space in our town. We are in an isolated area with very little traffic.
      I was wondering if you would have any ideas on how I could go about marketing Port Norris to the Amish for a new settlement. I would appreciate any feedback you could provide.

    21. Dale Rowe

      I may have a chunk of Rural MN lakeshore 4 U

      MILE OF MN LAKESHORE BORDERING CANADA FOR POSSIBLE NEW COMMUNITY – IF INTERESTED PLEASE CONTACT ME AT dalerowe@yahoo.com