An Amish boom is taking place nationwide, with the religious group growing so quickly that new communities are emerging every three and a half weeks.
The rapid growth of the Anabaptist religious group has now made the Amish one of the fastest-growing religious groups in North America, a census conducted by the Ohio State University found. Nearly 250,000 Amish live in the United States and Canada, but that number is expected to surpass 1 million by about 2050, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.
Though people who live outside the Amish belt of the Northeast and Midwest might not see the Amish boom, the rural settlements are expanding rapidly nonetheless.
“This place has grown,” Daniel Miller, who has spent his life on a Middlefield Amish settlement, told the Plain Dealer. “It’s because all of the kids.”
The Amish boom is in large part because of the strength of families in these communities, Miller said. Families have multiple children and those children usually stay in the community and start families of their own. Middlefield alone has 99 church districts, Miller said, adding that he remembers not long ago when there were just 20.
At the rate the Amish produce children and new families, the Amish boom is likely to continue into the future, said Joseph Donnermeyer, the Ohio State professor who led the census project. He noted that the Amish double their population every 22 years.
Ohio is now home to the most Amish in the nation with 60,000. Pennsylvania is close behind with 59,000, while Indiana has 45,000.
The Amish boom has help from the smart economics of these communities, Donnermeyer said.
“They are often purchasing land at good market prices,” he said. “They are buying land that no one else wanted to buy. Generally speaking, the Amish are a good economic value for the rural communities. They have business startups and they are more likely to buy local.”
The Amish are also less likely to draw on public support, with a very low unemployment rate and a stance against taking welfare. Despite misconceptions to the contrary, the Amish do pay taxes, Donnermeyer added.
The Amish boom has also caused the religious communities to begin spilling outside their traditional boundaries. In many places in Ohio, horse-drawn buggies can now be seen parked outside the local Walmart, for example.
This intermingling of communities is likely to continue as the Amish boom grows, the Columbus Dispatch reported. As these communities grow, they also become more diverse and spread farther from the traditional areas. The number of Amish settlements alone shows the trend — there were just 179 in the entire country in 1990, but the Amish boom has pushed that number to 456.