Seventy-Five Years of Amish Studies, 1942 to 2017: A Critical Review of Scholarship Trends (with an Extensive Bibliography)

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

Anderson, Cory. 2017.


Research Points
  • Amish studies lacks critical self-reflection and cohesive organization of knowledge, instead displaying unusually high centrality of a few core scholars and works over its 75 year history.

  • This article analyzes citations from 983 peer-reviewed Amish studies works from 1942-2017 using measures such as degree centrality, authorities, hubs, and main path analysis.

  • The top 1% of cited works (10 references) account for nearly 20% of all citations in Amish studies; this is a very high concentration of influence, especially given Hostetler, Kraybill, and Nolt authored 8 of these 10 references. A Gini coefficient of 0.635, a coefficient on par with nations exhibiting high inequality, confirms highly unequal acknowledgement of Amish research.

  • These citation results suggest engagement with existing ideas is superficial, with scholars leaning on a narrow set of prominent names—the authoritative “throne” scholar—for legitimacy rather than substance. The consequence has been limited theoretical debates and limited branching into sub-areas.

  • Four Recommendations:
    1. Develop focused research questions and subareas to permit knowledge accumulation/autonomy.
    2. Scrutinize how citations substantively engage with relevant literature.
    3. Resist framing Amish studies for popular/touristic curiosity and protect-the-Amish mentalities, which neglects clear research questions and slows theory-driven progress.
    4. Engage debates beyond Amish studies by situating in broader theories and disciplines.

© 2024 Cory Anderson • All Rights Reserved

Seventy-Five Years of Amish Studies, 1942 to 2017: A Critical Review of Scholarship Trends (with an Extensive Bibliography)

Journal of Rural Social Science

Anderson, Cory, and Lindsey Potts. 2021.

36(1):Article 6.

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Research Points
  • An exhaustive narrative review of 246 Amish health-related peer reviewed publications,
    identified through bibliographic snowball sampling and supplemented by further searches,
    revealed nine themes.
  • Synthesized themes include modern/complementary-alternative medicine, birthing/intercourse,
    care, health knowledge/screening, payment, barriers to access, service provider effectiveness,
    health programming, and conflicts;
  1.  BMI/Activity:
    ● Amish have lower obesity rates, more physical activity but body image still predicted by BMI
    ● Physical activity linked to occupations and transportation
  2.  Diet:
    ● Amish diet high in homegrown foods but also fat; supplement use is common
    ● Emphasize nutrition but diet does not always match; changes over time need study
  3.  Cancer:
    ● Generally lower cancer rates, but higher for some types like breast cancer
    ● Lifestyle factors like low smoking rates may contribute to lower cancer risk
  4.  Cardiovascular:
    ● Mixed evidence on CVD rates compared to non-Amish
    ● Possible genetic factors but lifestyle like activity also relevant
  5.  Communicable Diseases:
    ● Vaccination rates lower than non-Amish but uptake varies
    ● Disease outbreaks disproportionality affect Amish when immunization is low
  6.   Immunity:
    ● Farm life may bolster immunity through animal exposure
    ● Specific effects seen for asthma risk and gut microbiome
  7.  Sleep:
    ● Wake early, sleep durations shorter than non-Amish, affected by season, age, and heritability
  8.  Genetic Disorders:● Many rare disorders due to founder effect and endogamy
    ● Well-studied with searchable databases created 
  9.  Tobacco/Alcohol Use:
    ● Low tobacco use overall but higher among some affiliations
    ● Very low alcohol use; higher among adolescents
  10.  Periodontal Disease:
    ● Unexpectedly low rates given poor dental care
    ● Possibly diet offers some protection
  11.  Injuries:
    ● Most common injuries reflect lifestyle: animals, falls, buggies
    ● Age and gender patterns exist in injury data
  12.  Burns:
    ● Child scalds common
    ● Burdock leaf therapy used, with mixed evidence of effectiveness
  13.   Fertility:
    ● Very high birth rates, shorter birth spacing than non-Amish
    ● Some better outcomes like lower preterm births
  14.  STDs:
    ● Expected to be low due to marital fidelity norms but minimal research exists


  •  The first bibliometric mapping of Amish health research literature (246 publications 1958-
    2020), analyzing publication trends, influential works, and knowledge clusters.
  •  Network/clustering algorithms reveal 13 topical clusters, a central focus on Amish health
    culture, and peripheral focuses on health conditions including safety, physical health,
    demography, and mental health.
  •  Main path analysis revealed 1986-90 shift in central literature from demography/genetics to
    cultural competency, which, though initially multiplying Amish health publications, has recently
    stagnated as a focus
  • Research collaborations bridging cultural studies and health conditions are lacking but could
    strengthen Amish health scholarship; cultural studies would also benefit from stronger theory
    ● Methodology models the process of organizing and assessing literature using quantitative
    bibliometric analyses that, in turn, enables up-close narrative literature reviews

© 2024 cory anderson • All Rights Reserved