Reviving the Demographic Study of the Amish.

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

Colyer, Cory, Cory Anderson, Joseph Donnermeyer, Rachel Stein, and Samson Wasao. 2017.


Research Points
  • Amish are difficult to study using traditional survey methods, but they produce registries (“directories”) that can be leveraged for non-intrusive analyses

  • Benjamin McKune digitized Holmes County, Ohio, Amish directories 1965-2010, linking households, but died before completing data cleaning

  • Findings from a limited analysis of McKune data include: Amish population grew 200% over 45 years (doubling time 30 years); stable sex ratio, median age, and family size; gradually decreasing family size and lower infant mortality rates in recent decades

  • In service of future demographic research, an exhaustive review of Amish demography literature aggregates key findings
  • Conversions to the Amish are very low
  • Wide population pyramid bottom signals disproportionately young population
  • Completed fertility around 6.3 to 7.8; fertility has remained high across 20th century
  • Typical marriage age in lower 20s; marriage limitations are imbalanced gender rations,
    relatedness, and denominational boundaries
  • Parents have children younger, older, and more frequently than national averages
  • Intervals between births increases with time, except first to second is shorter than wedding to first
  • Birth control is discouraged, but some couples use it
  • Nuances of Amish fertility profile: high twinning rates, low out of wedlock conceptions, spring birth trough remains
  • Fertility positively associated with farming status, large childhood family, ordained, and conservative districts / affiliations.
  • Infant mortality has dropped, but high birth rates have not
  • While birth complications seem high, Amish also have lots of children
  • Few stillbirths and infant deaths: low drug / alcohol use, low STDs, social support, nutrition, modern medical access

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