North America’s Amish-Mennonites Adopt Abroad: The Ideologies and Institutional Conditions That Cracked the Homogeneity of an Ethnic Religion

Social Compass

Anderson, Cory, and Jennifer Anderson. 2023.

70(3):403-27.

Research Points
  • International, cross-ethnic adoption went against Amish-Mennonite norms of endogamy and ethnic homogeneity. However, their emphasis on family and evangelistic mission motivated some to adopt internationally as an expression of values.

  • Children’s homes operated briefly in Paraguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Romania from the 1960s-2000s, enabled by momentary geopolitics and constrained by later policies. Homes provided a major source of foreign adoptees. Beyond homes, A-M missionaries also directly adopted children. Overall rates of adoption are small but significant for the group.

  • While adoption potentially negates A-Ms ethnic norms of endogamy and homogeneity, A-M emphasis on family and evangelistic mission motivated some to adopt internationally as an expression of values.

  • Adoption “cracked” but did not fully open Amish-Mennonite ethnic boundaries. It shows the right configuration of ideologies and structures can facilitate counterintuitive processes like adoption into an insular group.

  • Ultimately, ideologies can motivate counter-normative behaviors such as diversification, even in traditionally homogenous populations, although these ideologies are greatly enabled and constrained by external structures such as global contexts.

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