Amish population growing exponentially - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Amish population growing exponentially

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SHARON, Pa -

There are nearly 300,000 people who are Amish in the U.S. and that number is expected to double faster than any other group in 20 years.

Locally we have a mix of New and Old Order Amish with different beliefs on technology. This diversity especially with less strict orders, is part of the reason one professor said that so many kids are choosing to stay Amish.

The number of people living this slow paced lifestyle is growing exponentially faster than any other ethnic population in the world.

"They have large families and they see it as part of their faith to have as many children as possible," explained Dr. William McGuigan, an associate professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Shenango.

McGuigan presented his research on the Amish Wednesday night during a community lecture on campus.
 
A Mennonite himself, he said that 90 percent of the children are choosing to stay Amish. One reason is that there are so many diverse groups within the Old and New orders.

According to McGuigan, the Old Order resists technology with no electricity at home, no tractors and machinery and holds on to the horse and buggy. New Order families have a horse and buggy but embrace technology with electricity on the property.

Locally he said that New Wilmington has one of the most conservative Old Order groups in the U.S. There are New Order groups in Greenville, Kinsman and Conneautville. In Conneautville, they use cars but use their horse and buggy for church.

He said that the population growth has forced the Amish to change. There is not enough affordable farmland to keep up, so they're exposed more to the world through these new professions.

"The Amish are no longer reliant on farming as a sole source of income. A lot of them are working in home businesses but a lot of them are also working away and working for English contractors and hiring vans to take them to work," he said.

They have access to radios and video players on these rides. He said that some boys who go out before they're baptized as adults are also getting their hands on cell phones and the internet. 

People in the audience got to ask McGuigan about some of the myths about their neighbors. One question was regarding why they don't like to have their pictures taken. McGuigan said that it's not because of the rumor that it could capture their souls. He said that the Amish don't like to have their photo taken because they find it too prideful and they don't want to idolize images. He also talked to 21 News about another common myth.

"People ask why they have a blue door and there were rumors that the blue door represented a daughter of marrying age and that's not true.  I asked my Amish friends why they have a blue door and they said because we had blue paint."

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