As it does around this time each year, the Young Center at Elizabethtown College has just published its Amish population estimates for 2020 (update: see the latest 2022 numbers here). The total estimated Amish population is 350,665, found in 31 states, four Canadian provinces, and two South American countries. Some interesting takeaways from the figures:
1. Four Large Settlements. The largest settlement, Lancaster County, now has an estimated Amish population of 40,525. Not far behind is the Holmes County community at 36,955. The third largest settlement, Elkhart & LaGrange Counties, Indiana (26,380), is actually closer in size to the fourth most sizeable, Geauga County, Ohio (18,820), than it is to Holmes County.
These four large communities account for 35% of the total Amish population, with the remaining 585 settlements accounting for 65%. To put it another way, if you meet a random Amish person, there is about a 1 in 3 chance he or she lives in one of the four largest communities.
Geauga County, Ohio. Photo by SI
2. New Locations. As is the trend, the Amish continue settling in new locations. The Center’s population summary page notes that 33 new settlements have been founded since the last tally, with seven settlements ceasing to exist, for a net gain of 26 settlements.
3. Most Amish communities are small. Fifty percent of all settlements are just a single church district in size. A church district can range from a handful of households, to over 50 or 60 in rare cases, but usually number about 20-40 families in size.
Union Grove, NC
4. 97% growth since 2000. The Amish population has increased from an estimated 177,885 in 2000 to 350,665 in 2020. This gain of 172,780 means the Amish population has essentially doubled since the turn of the century, a growth rate of 97% over two decades.
5. Fast & Slow Growers. Some states have proven more attractive to Amish than others. States which outpaced this rate of growth in the 2000-2020 time period include Missouri (165% growth), Kentucky (180%), New York (371%), and Minnesota (234%).
States which notably lagged behind include Ohio (61% growth), Pennsylvania (83%), Maryland (62%) and Indiana (81%). The main reason for these growth differences is migration, due to factors including land prices and a desire to live in less densely-populated areas.
Jamesport, MO. Photo by Don Burke
Where do the figures come from? As always they are based on a number of sources. From the Amish Studies site:
Population estimates for 2020 were calculated using a variety of sources including Raber’s New American Almanac, reports by correspondents in Die Botschaft, The Budget, and The Diary, settlement directories, regional newsletters, and settlement informants. The data includes all Amish groups that use horse-and-buggy transportation, but excludes car-driving groups such as the Beachy Amish and Amish Mennonites.
The figures were compiled (no small task) by a three-person team:
Statistics compiled by Edsel Burdge, Jr., Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College, in cooperation with Joseph F. Donnermeyer, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, and with assistance from David Luthy, Heritage Historical Library, Aylmer, Ontario.