Toward a Jungian theory of Amish fertility?

At least in the Geauga, Ohio Amish settlements, the decline in fertility followed national fertility trends very closely. Here’s a fun fact: the Amish don’t use most forms of birth control or abortion.

Now, this doesn’t mean Amish fertility fell as low as U.S. general fertility; it simply means that Amish fertility fell as much as U.S. general fertility.

…Cuz what I’m seein’ is that Amish fertility is pretty well correlated with U.S. TFR on the whole.

Scroll down through this Lyman Stone essay to see the graphs of the data (which won’t reproduce for me here, alas).  Here are some pictures in tweet form, if you don’t like scrolling.


Maybe there's just no way to say, "Enough already, Levi!" in Pennsylvania Dutch?

It would make sense to check something like education for women among the Amish community. There is likely to be a cause that works in both communities to differing extent. It is unlikely to be abortion or women working. But it may well be education.

You mean Amish women are now starting to get a high school education?

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


At age six, Amish children start first grade. They attend a one room schoolhouse that includes grades one through eight. There are usually 30-35 scholars, many of which are siblings and cousins. School is usually within walking distance of home.


Teachers are chosen from members of the community. A new teacher is usually a young girl. In the male dominated Amish society, men have more job options from which to choose.

The fact that she has only an eighth grade education is looked upon as a plus. It is more important that she is strong in the faith and will stick to the Amish way of thinking as she teaches the children.'

To answer the question - no, the Amish of the variety mentioned in the link have not changed in terms of education, and they are still not getting a high school education.

To answer your own question. As, obviously, I did not mention High School. Not once.

If Amish girls have gone from four years of primary school to eight while everyone else has gone from twelve to twenty four years of education, you might expect a similar decline in the birth rate.

Also it appears that primary school is most important for depressing women's fertility.

'I did not mention High School'

Since the Amish have never gone to high school, it was merely asking if something had changed in Amish education - and a way to point out that the Amish are not a typical example of schooling. The Amish believe very strongly in education, but only when it serves the goals of the Amish community. In other words, Amish girls are as educated today as they were in the 1930s - the Amish are not really known for changing their lifestyle, after all.

'Also it appears that primary school is most important for depressing women’s fertility.'

Do you honestly believe that the Amish have only started educating girls in the last one or two generations?

Amish education: I can't say definitively, but I am pretty sure that Amish education levels have been constant for the past 100 years. It may not have been so over the past 150-175 years - but education was generally in a wild state of change in the 19th century. It would be interesting to see how education for Amish children has changed since 1700.

It kinda is education. More people use my favorite birth control method; oral sex.

+1 for the graphs not reproducing either. Nice.

It is sweet!

This is consistent with the fact sperm count and mobility is down over the last couple of generations, possibly due to gender-bender chemicals in the environment (speculative but not unsound?!)

" the Amish don’t use most forms of birth control or abortion." And we know that because they say so?

I chuckled when I read that. I think that these 'researchers' should get out a little bit more.

I do not think this is true. (Grew up Amish-Mennonite, still have family who are Plain.)

So far as I know, the Amish and other Plain groups have never opposed contraception--abortion, yes, but not contraception.

Tribal preservation. In the ancient world, every woman had to have at least 6-7 pregnancies just to maintain the population of the tribe because so many mothers and infants died in childbirth. Thus, the life cycle of a woman in the ancient world has been described as one of sex, birth, death, and decay.

From the linked article: "So a reasonable presumption would be that the Amish population doubles every 15 to 30 years. In other words, every generation is about twice as big as the one before it. This means the average woman must be having at least 4.2 kids assuming no conversions. But if you then assume, as most literature suggests, that about a quarter of Amish youths ultimately leave the church, and that conversions into the Amish lifestyle are very rare, then you arrive at a situation where long-run fertility of the Amish in the 20th century must have been 5.5–6.5 children per woman." Although the author later suggests that the Amish fertility rate may be responding to the economic cycle, it may be responding to (1) cultural pressure within the Amish tribe to maintain the population of the tribe, rising and falling in response to the growth or decline in the overall Amish population (primarily the result of Amish youth leaving the tribe), or (2) multiculturalism and the assimilation of the Amish tribe into the overall American culture and American tribe, Amish fertility trending along with overall American tribe fertility.

In the ancient world, asceticism (joining the convent) was a popular option among young (and fertile women), and the alternative to a life cycle of sex, birth, death, and decay. For Amish women today, Amish assimilation (i.e., multiculturalism) is today's alternative to joining the convent. [An aside, critics of multiculturalism may have a point: the decline in fertility among white women has been more than offset by high fertility rates among certain sub-groups (including immigrants), which maintains the population of the multicultural tribe (even as certain sub-groups experience a population decline).]

If it is environmental in cause, then wouldn't it likely be a similar percentage reduction. This is a similar # of children reduction.

The cost of raising children has risen, and I suspect that is the cause. I believe that fertility rates declined during the depression at a time when birth control was not widely available because families were concerned about the cost of raising children. Birth control is not necessary for family size reduction.

Having grown up in the county where much of this data was sourced, and often visiting my parents who still live there, I can say that I don't think that the cost of raising Amish children has risen as much as you think, or indeed, enough to make these changes.

Fascinating work. Back in the early 90's there was a lot of political turmoil on the subject of English-only language laws. As a result I did a paper on the state of research re: retention of language for ESL immigrants. I found that Ben Franklin, and others, back in the 1700's were concerned that the Penn Germans population would grow and supplant English-speaking populations. One of the things that first struck me about those graphs is that the Amish population in 1900 was approximately 10,000. Apparently they had a hard time just surviving as an independent population, much less supplanting competing subcultures. But today, rural populations and economies are increasingly shrinking so it would seem there might be a niche there to grow into. Which is a separate observation from the decreasing birth rate observation.
But the fertility rate decrease is very curious. I would expect that the cost of raising a child would not have increased for the Amish like it has for the gen pop - less likely to use hospitals, etc. And, since their economy is rural, the labor profit proffered by children should still offset the cost in the long run.

"An aside, critics of multiculturalism may have a point: the decline in fertility among white women has been more than offset by high fertility rates among certain sub-groups (including immigrants), which maintains the population of the multicultural tribe (even as certain sub-groups experience a population decline."

This isn't actually true. Every major ethnic category has a TFR below 2.1 in the United States.


I was told by a physician who serves the Amish that they are not against birth control but don't in general use it.


I have heard comments that the purchase of land for farming (and new family formation) has become a confining issue for many Amish. Not to mention the economics of small-scale farming is a challenge. Movement into new occupations, for example, the trades or manufacturing, require either apprenticeships or capital which can cause a slight delay in family formation. Moreover, those new enterprises are more subject to the economic health of the surrounding (non-Amish community).


On the positive relationship between Amish fertility and the lack of a phone in the home. Reminds me of my relatives from Ireland. When I asked a relative who had never left Ireland why her generation had such large families, she replied "No TV." Not an answer that Gary Becker might support but there you have at least one contrary viewpoint on the issue.

An article on challenges facing the Amish. Increasingly Amish in Geauga County "carry the lunchpail" i.e. they have taken factory jobs.

People tend to have the number of children they wish to have. In a monogamous relationship this is not that difficult to control even absent pills or condoms.

I am confused by y'all's confusion. There is nothing Jungian (unconscious?) about it.

The Amish actually have *quadratic* not exponential population growth. The argument is here:

That means all the conclusions built on the assumption of exponential growth don't work.

See also the follow-up post here with more evidence for quadratic population growth:

I dont understand - what is (potentially) Jungian about this?

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