The Varying Fertilities of the Amish Groups of Holmes County, Ohio


  • Henry Troyer Independent Research Specialist



high fertility, Amish, Holmes County, Ohio, religious minority


The Amish are known for their high fertility, and one of the groups, the Swartzentruber Amish, is known for its exceptionally large families. Opinions vary about the number, but there are many distinct Amish affiliations in the Holmes County, Ohio, area, ranging from the progressive New Order Amish to the ultraconservative Swartzentruber Amish. In this study, fertility was calculated for the five groups large enough for such analysis. The fertilities (i.e., number of live births for women 45 years and over) were notably congruent with the degree of conservatism (from progressive to conservative): New Order, 5.76; Old Order, 6.09; Dan or Andy Weaver, 7.79; Hostetler, 8.68; Swartzentruber, 10.42. The families of the Old Order group (the only group large enough) were subdivided into farming and nonfarming subgroups and families of ministers and families of laymen for fertility comparisons. The farming families subgroup had a higher fertility rate (6.88) than the nonfarming subgroup (5.90), presumably because their labor-intensive work of farming begs for large families. The ministers’ family subgroup also had a higher fertility (6.54) than the laymen’s family subgroup (5.89), the difference being attributed to ministers having a deeper religious commitment than laymen. The interval between marriage and first birth was nearly the same for all five groups. For the Swartzentruber Amish, the interbirth intervals remained short throughout the reproductive span, but for the other four groups, they became progressively longer. The reproductive span of women in the New Order Amish group was 13.75 years. It was progressively longer for the more conservative groups and was longest (17.74 years) for Swartzentruber Amish. These results are consistent with other studies that showed that people with more intense religious practice have larger families than people whose religious practice is less intense.