Five Californias-full of Amish


lithograph:  Stan Jolley

An Amish friend recently pointed out that the Amish population (roughly 220,000 today), currently doubling in size every 20-odd years, will hit a million sometime in the 2050s.

For what it’s worth, 200 years from now, if current trends hold (a huge ‘if’), we should expect to see…204 million Amish on the planet.

That would be over five times the current population of California, and over two-thirds the population of the entire country (for what it’s worth, there are no Amish in the Golden State, though there is plenty of Amish furniture in California).

Sure, that’s just fun with numbers.  But at the same time it’s fascinating to contemplate.  What will Old Order communities look like then?  Will the ‘Old Order’ even exist in anything resembling its present form?

Will Amish in future accept education beyond eighth grade, as some have said they will be forced to do in order to survive?  What other, perhaps currently unknown, technologies will creep into Amish life?

It’s probably as hard to imagine now as it would have been for Amish forefathers, 200 years ago, to imagine Amish life today.

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    1. It would be interesting to see 100 years into the future and see what is in store for the amish.

    2. Marc

      Could this nation even support 204 million Amish? I would imagine they would need a lot more land than would be available.

      And where could they emmigrate to? Europe has a declining population, but that vaccuum is most likely going to be filled by the nearby Muslims, Asians and Africans. Much of Africa is underpopulated, but I can’t imagine the Amish would last too long there (google: “white farmer” +Zimbabwe). Russia, perhaps?

    3. I have watched the Mennonite families in our community increase exponentially. I think the Mennonites and the Amish are having more children than any other predominantly-white subgroup of the population.

    4. OldKat'77

      This really doesn’t address what the “English” population would be doing; growth wise, during the same time periods, but you would have to assume some growth rate in those populations as well. I wonder what the Amish growth rate looks like contrasted to the general population?

      Also, two things come to mind in regards to Amish expanding into previously not-Amish territory: 1) I once heard that land around the Chesapeake Bay area is now so expensive that practically the only people that can afford to buy it and keep it as farmland are the Amish, a very interesting situation if it is true & 2) a few years ago there was quite a bit of talk about the American population re-locating closer to the coasts; so much so that many of the demographic planners were concerned that some of the Mid-Western states may eventually get to the point that the populations would become so low that infrastructure such as electrical grids, etc could no longer be maintained (on a cost effective basis). They claimed that the smaller towns and cities were drying up, and even some of the larger communities were in danger of shrinking dramatically. It seems to me that this vacuum (assuming it is real and not hype) could be partially filled by the Amish, as much of this area is Americas’ breadbasket. Sounds like a good fit for the “plain people”, no pun intended.

    5. Marc


      Well, don’t forget the haredim. 🙂

    6. Old Order Mennonites growing faster than Amish?

      Don’t quote me, but I believe I read one study that had the Old Order Mennonites as being slightly ahead of the Amish in terms of population growth. I don’t think it was by much. Though they allow electricity in the home, in some measures they are more conservative than your average Amish person. For example, the OOMs in Northern Indiana (Wakarusa/Napannee area) tend not to work in the RV factories which are so popular among Amish men.

      Oldkat interesting points you’ve made, there may be some truth to your first one, it sounds like I’ve heard similar comments made, true or not, about Lancaster County.

    7. Ed

      Interesting indeed to think of a future America filled with Amish and Old Order Mennonites!

      However, I think that this growth may be somewhat self-limiting. Amish sects tend to have splits and schisms and over time, and invariably some “Amish” groups trend towards more mainstream Christianity and away from Plain traditions.

      The neat thing about Amish growth is that it is spontaneous; there is no central Amish authority directing anyone to settle in a certain place or grow to a certain number of members. In 100 years, I predict the Amish will still be a small minority, but their ideas and ways will have an outsized impact on our society – for the better.

      1. Self-limiting Amish growth

        That’s probably true Ed. If all those originally Amish had not been influenced by progressive movements say in the latter 1800s the Amish population would be a lot bigger today. Something like 2/3 joined or became more mainstream churches in that period.