Amish growing like mushrooms after a rain shower

An AP story has just hit the wire on population growth among the Amish.  This coincides with the release of additional information on trends in Amish growth and migration from here at the Young Center.

The Amish studies site now lists trend data for the 1992 to 2008 period as well as the 2007 to 2008 one-year trend.

The most surprising statistic:  according to the data, the Amish grew at an astounding 6% last year.  Were that growth to hold, the Amish would double within 12 years, a much quicker pace than the roughly 20-year doubling rate seen in recent times.

I just asked Professor Kraybill about the 6% figure, and he shared the following:  “I am reluctant to speculate that the Amish will double in 12 years. It’s hard to know if the 6% was just a one year quirk.  What we do know with certainty is that the Amish grew on average 4% a year from 1992 to 2008 and if that rate (4%) continues they will double in 18 years, by 2026.”

Big gainer states among those with significant Amish populations were Kentucky, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

States welcoming new Amish populations over the 1992-2008 period include Arkansas, Colorado Amish, Maine Amish, Mississippi, Nebraska, Washington, and West Virginia.  Amish had attempted to settle some of these states in the past.  See Settlements that Failed for descriptions of some Amish settlements that have gone extinct.

The ‘Big Three’ of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have declined from a total of 69 percent of the total Amish population to 63 percent over the 16-year period studied.

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    1. Hi, Erik. Do you have any information on how Michigan fared? I do know of new settlements that are farther way from the Indiana border. New signs have gone up in the last year not far from where I live, informing people that Amish buggies are now on the road, too.

      I did find the 2008 data on your Young Center site. I see that Michigan has the 5th largest population in the U.S. I didn’t realize it was ranked quite that high.

    2. KY mom

      I just read the article that you are referring to. One thing led to another and eventually I found this blog. I am enjoying what I am reading and I am adding this site to my favorites.

      I have some questions. Living in Central KY, I know there are Amish and Mennonites living in the area. Upon first view, how do I distinguish if someone is Amish or Mennonite? Also, are they allowed to have friendships with the English? I would really like to befriend some ladies if that is a possibility. And, one day we were stopped at a traffic light when a buggy pulled up alongside of us. I was so thrilled to see these folks up close that I waved to them. Was that okay or was that inappropriate? My husband looked at me as if I was nuts.

      KY mom

    3. KY mom

      Thank you for this information. I will be on the lookout to make some new friends!

      KY mom

    4. Michigan Amish growth rate

      Hi John, Michigan did pretty well. It went from 23 to 34 settlements (48% growth), 39 to 78 church districts (100%), and approximately 5,265 to 10,530 total population. Michigan like Wisconsin or Missouri is a state with a lot of smaller-sized settlements so that’s interesting you’ve seen some new ones in your neck of the woods.

      Don’t know if you saw it but there is a nice chart if you click on ‘statistics’, then ‘population trends 1992-2008’–in the first paragraph on this page there is another link: ‘Population Change 1992-2008 tables’ which gives state-by-state info.

    5. Differences in appearance--Mennonites and Amish

      Generally, Old Order Mennonites can be distinguished by a few features. Men are beardless and both sexes wear patterned clothing (ie plaid shirts and checked dresses) whereas Amish tend to wear only solids. Typical OOM hat styles differ from typical Amish ones–they are often black and with a smaller brim. Mennonite girls often wear their hair in braids while Amish girls wear the head covering. Also, Old Order Mennonites usually have electricity in the home, while Old Order Amish do not. Like the Amish they are certainly not prevented from having friendships with English (though some, depending on general openness to outsiders, will be easier to approach than others), so KY mom you did fine by waving! You ought to try to make some acquaintances.

      Also check out this post:

      in it there is a link to a blog called Prairie Bluestem, written by Genevieve who lives in the Christian County area of Kentucky. The link will take you to a post of hers where she has written in a lot of detail on that community.

      And thanks, I’m glad you found it!

    6. John Lueders

      Greetings from Wisconsin. Thanks for all the informative blogs. I’ve been lucky to know and visit Amish throughout the state and have seen first hand a settlement (near Amherst, Wi.) of 30+ years and 70+ families all leave within a five year span. Most settlements are conservative with a few more progressive by their affiliation with the Pennsylvania Amish.
      Have you ever visited any Amish in Wisconsin? There is quite a diverse cross section of Amish and Mennonites here. And by the population/growth, it is a quite popular destination. Thanks again for all you write.

    7. Amish migration-Wisconsin

      Hi John,

      Thanks for the message! That is interesting what you write on Wisconsin, in fact it seems like that state, though it has grown a lot in Amish population in recent years, has had very high out-migration. You can see it in this table here:

      Looks like it is 3rd-highest with regard to out-migrants, after the much bigger Amish states of OH and PA. But it’s still been one of the big growers over the 1992-2008 period, with 117%.

      On the Amish Studies site it’s pointed out that NY had the largest net gain of migrants for the 2002-07 period.

      I have never personally been to Wisconsin but being America’s dairyland I can understand the attraction for Amish farmers!

    8. Marc

      Do these figures take into account Swartzentruber Amish? I thought they didn’t consider other Amish people “real Amish,” and so didn’t really communicate much with them.

    9. Relations between conservative and progressive Amish

      Hi Marc, these do take into account the Swartzentruber groups. In theory, the degree to which a Swartzentruber group would engage other Amish groups would depend at least partially on how ‘low’ the other group is, ie how close its church rules are in relation to the Swartzentrubers. This doesn’t mean that they would do things like exchange ministers with groups that they are not in affiliation with, but general neighborly contact is not out of line. There are actually 3 Swartzentruber affiliations in the Holmes-Wayne Counties settlement, and as I understand it those 3 are not in affiliation with one another.

      Swartzentruber Amish frequently find employment in shops belonging to non-Swartzentruber Amish. I wouldn’t be surprised if Swartzentrubers were to look critically on the ways of higher-order Amish, as the higher-order groups have been known to see the Swartzentrubers as backward cousins in a way. To be honest I have never asked Swartzentruber members about that, but have heard a fair share of negative-leaning commentary from higher groups about the Swartzentrubers.

    10. Rosa Sater

      do you by any chance know which counties in Indiana have the highest numbers (or proportion) of Amish? Thanks so much. Rosa Salter

    11. Hi Rosa, population-wise Lagrange and Elkhart have the most Amish, with other big population centers in and around Adams, Allen, Daviess counties, as well as around the town of Napannee.

    12. deafgun

      I am building a house in Southern Colorado. Are there any Amish that can build my cabinets and furnitures?

    13. Lance

      I don’t know if there are any cabinet makers or furniture makers in these communities, but there are Amish near Monte Vista, La Jara, and Westcliffe. There is also a 4th community, but I don’t know where it is. You will just have to go the communities and ask until you find someone. Good Luck!