Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Amish one of U.S.'s fastest-growing religious groups

A new Amish community is established about every three and a half weeks in the U.S. and more than 60 percent of all existing Amish communities have been founded since 1990, according to a new census of the Amish population by Ohio State University researchers. They say this suggests that the Amish are growing more rapidly than most other religions in the U.S. The growth can be linked to large families and high baptism rates, while growth in other religions would more likely be linked to conversion. The study restricted its count to "Old Order" Amish and others who limit their use of most modern technologies. (Fotosearch image)

There are now 456 Amish settlements, compared to just 179 in 1990, according to the census, Science Daily reports. If the growth continues at its current rate, there could be more than 1 million Amish people living in more than 1,000 settlements across the U.S. by 2050, which would "bring economic, cultural, social and religious change to the rural areas that attract Amish settlement." Researchers predict Amish will buy land vacated by farmers, but "the availability of farmland might not keep pace with population growth," forcing many Amish men to seek non-farm work, including woodworking and construction, which could increase land prices and enhance local economies.

The Amish should not be confused with Mennonites, who are similar and share common backgrounds, but are more "assimilated into mainstream culture and are more likely to live in urban and suburban settings," according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, whose senior fellow is Amish scholar and expert Donald Kraybill. The Ohio State census found that Amish live in 29 states, mostly in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, but as far south as Florida and Texas, as far northeast as Maine and as far west as Montana. Ohio contains the most Amish, Pennsylvania is second and Indiana is third. New York has seen the most recent growth in settlements, with 15 founded since 2010. (Read more)

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