The Amish Studies site at the Young Center at Elizabethtown College has just updated their Amish population statistics. Check out the new numbers here. Of interest: total Amish population is up to an estimated 230,985, and one new state has been added to the list since last year–Arkansas–bringing the total number of states where the Amish can be found to 28 (plus Ontario).
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I read the Amish of Ontario were starting a new community in Mannitoba one or two years ago. What about it?
That’s a 6% increase over the previous year, which is kind of big to believe. But I guess the fact that these are rough estimates accounts for that.
I had a related question. I read somewhere that Amish wives of factory workers were increasingly using contraception despite the ban on such in the Amish religion. In your interactions with the Amish have you found this to be the case? Are attitudes toward contraception changing?
Yep, Marc is probably right. At a 6% per annum increase in population, their community would double every 12 years. I think that is not likely.
If the second point Marc makes is correct, I wonder why this would be limited to the wives of factory workers only?
Marc, did the article you read address that question?
OldKat: I dont think the article stated that contraception use was limited to the wives of factory workers. I remember getting the impression that for one reason or another, those were the only Amish women with whom the person writing the article spoke.
AA, when you talk about decreasing family size, are there any studies documenting this or are you going by personal experience? The only studies Ive seen on Amish fertility are pretty old, from the 90s, and they didnt try to estimate completed fertility, so the estimates of around 5 births per woman were most likely an underestimate of the total number of children an amish woman would bear in her lifetime.
Please excuse the lack of aposrophes, every time I try to use one my computer screen messes up. I am aware of how to spell contractions. 🙂
Variation in Amish growth rate; influence of birth control
Guys that is an interesting point on rate of increase–it may be due to the use of the 135 estimate as the average per church district (although that is described below the chart as a conservative average and I’d agree; as i’m sure you saw there is a disclaimer about the size varying), or it may actually be due to the fact that it can be difficult to gather this info (for among other reasons, a good bit of it being self-reported), and the Young Center may have simply been able to collect even more complete info this year–from what I’ve been told by Dr. Kraybill, for example the Calender/Almanac is not a 100% complete listing of all districts. Looking at where the info comes from at the bottom of the chart, seems that they’ve used a wide variety of sources, including informants, settlement guides, and the Diary migration report.
Marc the Amish birth control issue is an interesting topic and to be honest one that I have no firsthand experience with. Might be a good one to bring up! I have read the same thing and one could infer from the somewhat decreasing size of families in certain settlements that that may be the case. I imagine if artificial birth control were being used it would be among the more progressive members of Amish society which would generally include factory workers and business owners–though i’m using broad brush strokes in discussing this issue, as again, outside of what I’ve read I do not really know. There are of course the ‘natural’ forms of birth control as well (ie rhythm method), which at least in the Catholic Church, are promoted as a means of controlling family size. But no idea on Amish stance on that one.
Emma, I do not have any info on Manitoba. Off the top of my head, I believe there was at least one attempt in Vancouver at one point but did not last long. So at present as far as I know the Canadian Amish presence is limited to Ontario.
Average Amish family size and birth control
My personal experience with the issue would be more anecdotal, but here are a couple of ideas: variations in family size could be seen as a function of changing employment as well as differences between ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ affiliations. There is not a lot of super-up-to-date data on this as far as I’m aware of, but there are two pieces of info that would support this idea found in ‘The Amish Struggle with Modernity’, one is data in an article by Thomas Meyers showing that the average family size of Elkhart/Lagrange IN Amish is largest among farm families (8.6 mean number of children) and smallest among factory families (6.6). This is 1988 info. Kraybill also has a study in the same book about family size among the four major orders in Holmes County, Ohio, showing that family size increases as you travel down the spectrum towards the more conservative groups (hard data on the Swartzentrubers is not available but are said to have the largest family sizes of the four groups). This would probably jibe with what one would conclude intuitively.
But what about birth control? I can’t cite alot of hard data, outside of the fact that Kraybill and Nolt write about it in Amish Enterprise:
‘…the size of Amish families is shrinking somewhat. One business owner’s daughter has a two-year-old child. When asked when she will have another baby, she said, “Not for awhile yet.” The grandfather noted that in the past “they would have already had a second one!” Families of five or six children are becoming more typical than those of eight or nine, which were common in decades past.’
K/N give a few likely reasons for the decrease: ‘The greater use of technology in shops eliminates the demand for human labor. The demographic crisis created by decreasing land and a growing Amish population is a likely factor. And greater familiarity with medical services and advice from health professionals possibly encourages some forms of birth control.’
But again, I’m not really aware of a lot of hard data when it comes to Amish birth control practice. Would be an interesting, though perhaps difficult-to-execute, study.
I’ve wondered about birth control as well. I visit with a young Amish woman in MN and her two children are 3 and 18 months. Every time I see her I’m expecting to see a baby bump. She has mentioned that finances are pretty tight so that made me wonder if they actively choose not to get pregnant.