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July 13, 2004

Amish paradise?

Here is an article about an Amish youth. It mentions rumspringa, the period when Amish teenagers are a bit wild, and make a choice whether to stay in the community. This source suggests that Amish defection rates have dropped from a high of ~60% in the mid-20th century to 5% today. Why? Cultural factors might be important, but I wonder if the Amish that remain are those who are psychologically most comfortable with the Amish culture (the source above notes that many mid-20th century Amish who defected wanted to engage more Bible study and evangelization or have access to modern farming techniques, in other words, both secular and religious types that were deviant). Amish society is bound by Ordnung, their strict rules that govern their lives and their interaction with the outside world. The Amish are certainly an ruled-based people in many ways, but they are self-selected minority characterized by all sorts of counter-cultural quirks (extreme pacifism being one). American culture has changed a great deal since the first Amish set themselves apart, and I suspect that the variance between the typical Amish today and the typical American is far greater in lifestyle and psychology than it was several hundred years ago....

Posted by razib at 05:52 PM