Monday, September 17, 2018

Amish Fertility Rates and Economics



A note from Donald McCaig got me into looking at Amish fertility rates and economics here in the U.S.

Let's start with fertility rates: they are very, very high.

Fertility is ...extremely high among Pennsylvania Dutch speakers, and especially high among those with no phone. We’re talking average TFRs [total fertility rates] from 2001–2015 of about 6 or 7 births per woman. That’s genuinely remarkable, and that doesn’t include twinning. That’s just delivery count.

Wow. That means the U.S. Amish have one of the highest fertility rates in the world.

Of course, not everyone born into an Amish family stays in the Order; about half seem to leave to lead more normal lives. That said, every Amish family benefits from an enormous amount of child and young-adult labor.

The Amish do not believe their kids need education beyond 8th grade in order to participate in the Amish world, and almost no Amish go to high school or college. Though all other children are required to attend school until age 16, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) that Amish children could end formal education at age 14.

As one web site put it:

An Amish education consists of eight years in a one room schoolhouse being taught by a teacher with an eighth grade education....

Amish highly distrust what the outside world calls “education”. Public education is designed as a springboard toward individual advancement, independence, power, and disdain for the simple life.

All these ideas are contrary to fundamental Amish beliefs.

The purpose of Amish education is not to promote individuality and critical thinking. The goal is teach children the worth of hard work, ethical living, and how to be a valuable member of the Amish community. Amish education does not seek to create artists, scientists, musicians, or actors.

What about Amish economics?

For one thing, they do not pay into Social Security
, though they pay other taxes, including federal and state income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and public school taxes, even though most Amish send their children to privately run schools (which they also fund).

How did the Amish get "free" of Social Security? The answer is a religious exemption: the Amish consider Social Security to be an insurance program which contradicts Amish beliefs against participating in commercial insurance. Without Social Security, Amish communities must care for their old and infirm -- one reason to have very large families.

Without Social Security, the Amish typically save up to 20% of their income, as compared to about 6% for the average American.

The Amish try to avoid debt of all kinds, recycle, repair, and repurpose as much as they can, and frequent thrift stores and garage sales for goods they need.

Along with farming, many Amish often run other cash-making businesses or "side-hustles" from breeding dogs to selling flowers and produce, from building sheds and furniture to custom leather work and butter, cheese, and egg production.


Though Amish are loathe to shoulder debt, they are very good credit risks and rarely default, meaning banks are eager to lend them money for land purchases.  Up until about 1990, the Amish absorbed most of their population growth on long-established communities, but as populations have boomed, more and more Amish are moving west to acquire cheaper land.

Many Amish are cash poor due to the large number of children they have and the sustenance economics by which they make a living. While their land may be valuable, a significant portion of the land may be in hay and feed for livestock, while direct competition with larger farms tends to keep commodity prices low.  When you find an Amish millionaire, it's usually money made in a business other than farming.

The Amish are starting to make some allowances for the modern world, especially when it comes to cell phones and computers which are very useful for selling goods (credit card purchases and mail order are OK with the Amish), keeping track of weather, and pricing commodities.

Electricity on rural properties may come from on-site power generators or solar panels, while propane-powered refrigerators are fairly common. The rule is that the Amish cannot be connected to "the grid," not that they cannot use electricity, air pressure, or hydraulics.

When a car or truck is needed for a long haul, “Amish taxi” services run by non-Amish people provide a way to get around without violating the rule against owning a car.

At Amish furniture and shed factories, expect to see the same computer-guided power tools you would see anywhere else. What's banned at the house is not necessarily banned at work.

1 comment:

Amy Nexus said...

As you note here, one of the Amish biggest side hustles is puppy mills. Lots and lots of puppy mills. In fact, you can track politicians votes on the state level regarding keeping puppy mills in place by overlaying it on a map with concentrations of Amish populations. They are the largest producers in the U.S. of puppies and it is an absolute myth that they treat their livestock well. They have a highly organized system of 'fronts' so that they can sell their puppies to people all over the country. If you've ever bought a pet shop puppy, you've bought a puppy miller's stock and almost certainly an Amish poorly bred, inhumanely treated animal.

I've seen the aftermath of a bust of one such operation in the NE area because I was volunteering for a rescue. No Amish communities around here, but they found a sucker to rent out their house and act like the dogs were bred in their 'home'. Pretty sophisticated operations. They are truly disgusting and should all be shut down pronto.