A new census of the Amish population in the United States (U.S.) estimates that a new Amish community is founded, on average, about every three and one-half weeks, and shows that more than 60 percent of all existing Amish settlements have been founded since 1990.
This pattern suggests the Amish are growing more rapidly than most other religions in the United States, researchers say. Unlike other religious groups, however, the growth is not driven by converts joining the faith, but instead can be attributed to large families and high rates of baptism.
In all, the census counts almost 251,000 Amish in the U.S. and Ontario, Canada, dispersed among 456 settlements, the communities in which members live and worship. The 1990 census estimated that there were 179 settlements in the United States.
If the growth of the Amish population continues at its current rate, the Ohio State University researchers predict that the census could exceed one million Amish and 1,000 settlements shortly after 2050, and these numbers will bring economic, cultural, social and religious change to the rural areas that attract Amish settlement.
Among the changes the researchers predict: Amish will buy up land vacated by farmers in rural areas close to community services, but the availability of farmland might not keep pace with population growth. This means many Amish men will likely look for nonfarm jobs such as woodworking and construction trades, which could affect land prices and potentially enhance local economies through the establishment of business startups.