Amish Boom Could Reshape the Rust BeltBy: Sean Patterson - August 8, 2012
As the recent recession descended upon the U.S., few regions were hit harder than the rust belt. Thousands of workers throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan were laid off, somethimes throwing entire towns into dire financial situations. Things are so bad in Detroit that at least one child has set up a lemonade stand to raise money for the city.
In the midst of these hardships, though, there appears to be one community that is thriving. Ohio State University recently released a new census of the Amish population in the U.S. and found that it is growing more quickly than other religions in the country.
The census indicates that close to 251,000 Amish live in 456 settlements in the U.S. and Canda. While this may not seem like many people, consider that the census also stated that, on average, a new Amish settlement is founded every 3 1/2 weeks.
“The Amish are one of the fastest-growing religious groups in North America,” said Joseph Donnermeyer, a rural sociology professor at OSU and head of the Amish census. “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.”
This type of growth is not being seen from many other religions in the U.S. The U.S. census shows that the number of Americans not specifying themselves as religious is growing at a faster rate than all other U.S. religions combined, but that some smaller religious congregations are gaining ground. Donnermeyer estimates that Holmes County, Ohio, the U.S. county with the current highest population of Amish by percentage, will be majority Amish within 15 years.
The study suggests that the growth of the Amish community is largely driven by population growth from within. In short, members have large families and children raised within Amish communities tend to stay. The Amish community limits its interaction with modern technology, and so does not have to compete with the scrutiny, instant answers, and free flow of information that the internet has brought.
The census researchers also made predictions on what affect the growing Amish population will have on surrounding communities. They predict that Amish settlements will continue to buy vacated rural land, which might become a scarce resource. It is suggested that a scarcity of farmland could men Amish men taking up woodworking or construction as a trade.