The population of Amish in the United States and Ontario is expected to grow by a factor of four over the next 40 years. Currently, they number 251,000 and are expected to surpass 1 million. This was according to a study released by Ohio State University.
The various Amish groupings are part of the larger Mennonite denomination, which has its roots among 17th century dissenting Christians from Switzerland. Eschewing modern conveniences, the Amish are known not only for doing without automobiles and electric appliances but also for their work ethic and pacifism. In rural counties of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, for example, they are often seen driving their black horsedrawn buggies and wearing their characteristic modest attire.
“The Amish are one of the fastest-growing religious groups in North America,” said Joseph Donnermeyer, who teaches rural sociology at Ohio State. “They’re doubling their population about every 21 to 22 years, primarily because they produce large families and the vast majority of daughters and sons remain in the community as adults baptized into the faith, starting their own families and sustaining their religious beliefs and practices.” Donnermyer led a portion of the recent 2010 U.S. Religion Census.
Currently, there are 99 church districts, or communities, in Middlefield, in central Northeast Ohio. At one time in the recent past, there were only 20.
The Amish babyboom has made the Buckeye State home to more than 60,000 Amish. Ohio now ranks first in terms of the number of Amish residents, while Pennsylvania is a close second at 59,000 Amish people. Indiana ranks third with about 45,000.
Economics has been a factor in the rise in population. They often purchase land at good prices that no one else wanted to buy. As evidence of their work ethic, they show very low levels of unemployment and rarely go on relief. When the Amish start a family, they are essentially business startups in the field of agriculture. Since their transportation is horsedrawn, they do not tend to go far from the rural counties where they live and thus tend to buy local. They are known for producing handmade goods, such as furniture, as well as staples such as honey, fruit and vegetables.
Approximately 50 percent of the Amish in Ohio live in the greater Holmes County settlement in the central part of the state, which is home to the highest concentration of Amish residents in any county in the United States.
Ohio apparently has what the Amish are looking for: agricultural land that is not too far from necessities such as banks and hospitals. In Middlefield, Amish horsedrawn buggies are often seen parked at the Wal-Mart, where the Amish are able to purchase what they do not make for themselves.