Traveling through some parts of Lancaster County you might be taken to think that the Amish make up a majority of the local population.
Everywhere you turn you’ll see acre upon acre of well tended fields rolling in gentle waves off into the the distance. Nestled among this agricultural shangri-la, farmhouses with fresh laundry on the line and a conspicuous lack cars or trucks parked nearby hint that an Amish family, often three generations deep, live at the location. Around every turn of the country road it seems you spy a black buggy making it’s way across the landscape much as they would have two centuries ago – minus the macadam surface of course.
A question that naturally arises in your mind as you observe such scenes: How many Amish people live in the Keystone State? And how many of those reside in Lanacaster County – the geographic heartland of first wave Amish Americans.
As of 2010 there are roughly 59,000 Amish individuals living in the state of Pennsylvania. Well known professor/scholar Donald Kraybill puts the number at 67,000 in this article. It’s probably safe to assume that his number is accurate as of 2013-14. Another more recent article – that notes the Amish population of Pennsylvania is actually shrinking – puts the 2013 total at 63,785.
Whatever their exact number, it’s important to understand that these individuals are organized into distinct church districts, of which there are 401. These districts represent the religious structure of the 53 known Amish settlements. The 2010 statistics show that Pennsylvania had the largest Amish population in absolute numbers; the largest number of settlements; as well as the 2nd highest number of church districts. However, the rankings will change if the Amish continue to leave the state in search of cheaper land.
Of course 59,000 people out of a total Pennsylvania population of 12,702,379 (2010) represents only a tiny fraction of the populace. However, it is important to keep in mind that all 59,000 Amish now living in Pennsylvania are descendants of only 300 original immigrants, the lion share of which came to the state between 1737 and 1754. In Lancaster County – home to the oldest Amish community in America – they number 31,000.
This increase reflects the fact that the Amish as a whole are one of the fastest growing religious minorities in the United States. How fast? Well in 1900 there were 5,000, in 1950 – 33,000. By 2001 there numbers had increased to 150,000 nationwide and to 40,100 in Pennsylvania. According to a study done in 2010 by Elizabethtown College total U.S. Amish population had reached 249,495. This kind of growth represents a doubling in the last 20 years and it is now estimated that a new Amish community is found every 3 1/2 weeks!
- Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles
- “Amish Population by State (2010).” Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College
- Amish Society by John A. Hostetler
- Debunking the reality of ‘Amish Mafia’