MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio (RNS) The Amish are one of the fastest-growing religious groups in North America, according to a new census by researchers at Ohio State University.

The study, released July 27 at the annual meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, suggests a new community sprouting every three and a half weeks.

Nearly 250,000 Amish live in the U.S. and Canada, and the population is expected to exceed 1 million around 2050.

The growth may not be visible outside Amish country, but the rural settlements definitely see the boom.

"This place has grown," said Daniel Miller, 52, who has spent his life on an Amish settlement here. "It's because all of the kids."

Many Amish families have multiple children, Miller said, adding that those children often stay in the community and eventually sprout families of their own.

There are currently 99 church districts, or communities, in Middlefield, which is east of Cleveland in central Northeast Ohio. Miller said he remembers when there were less than 20.

The Amish double their population about every 22 years, said Joseph Donnermeyer, the Ohio State professor who led the census project as part of the recent 2010 U.S. Religion Census.

The skyward growth has made Ohio home to more than 60,000 Amish residents -- the most in any state. Pennsylvania ranks second with about 59,000 Amish people. Indiana ranks third with about 45,000.

Simple economics also has been a factor in the rising population, Donnermeyer said.

"They are often purchasing land at good market prices," he said. "They are buying land that no one else wanted to buy. Generally speaking, the Amish are a good economic value for the rural communities. They have business startups and they are more likely to buy local."

Additionally, Amish residents are not likely to draw on government money, Donnermeyer said, adding that Amish people have very low unemployment and rarely go on welfare.

He said Amish residents also pay the same taxes as other citizens. "The idea that the Amish don't pay taxes is the biggest mythology about the Amish," Donnermeyer said.

About half of the Amish people in Ohio live in the greater Holmes County settlement in the central part of the state. Holmes County itself holds the highest concentration of Amish residents in any county in the United States.

Many Ohio counties have just what the Amish population is looking for, Donnermeyer said.

"You can't be too rural," he said. "You have to be close enough to a town with the basic necessities, like a bank, hospital, etc. I think Ohio is the perfect mix."

As the population grows, the Amish community and its neighbors begin to merge. In Middlefield, horse-drawn buggies are parked outside the local Wal-Mart.

"I'm not a fan of Wal-Mart, but my wife is," said Amish farmer Dan Yoder, 59, as he walked through the Wal-Mart parking lot. "We get the stuff you can't make at home.

"Things have changed a lot. This lot used to be my uncle's farm."

(Brandon Blackwell writes for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland).

Click through the slideshow to see most and least Christian states in the United States:

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  • Utah

    78,438 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Parowan_Utah_Church.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • North Dakota

    66,950 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catholic_Church_in_Warsaw,_North_Dakota.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Alabama

    62,467 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:16th_Street_Baptist_Church.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Louisiana

    59,598 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St._Stephens_Episcopal_Church_(Innis,_Louisiana).jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Oklahoma

    58,598 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Catesby_Oklahoma_Church.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Mississippi

    58,342 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mississippi_Church.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • South Dakota

    58,212 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Methodist_Episcopal_Church_Pierre_South_Dakota.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Minnesota

    55,280 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_near_Flom,_Minnesota.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Massachusetts

    55,023 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sandwich_Church,_Massachusetts.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Arkansas

    54,985 Christian adherents per 100,000 people. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Our_Lady_of_Perpetual_Help_Church_silhouette_altus_arkansas.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Nebraska

    54,776 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Visitation_Church_%28O'Connor%2C_Nebraska%29_church_from_S.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Tennessee

    54,764 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/First_Baptist_Church_Donelson_Tennessee_04032012.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Rhode Island

    53,576 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Texas

    53,525 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Iowa

    53,403 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Wisconsin

    52,863 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Pennsylvania

    51,883 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Illinois

    51,442 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • South Carolina

    51,374 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Kentucky

    51,055 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Idaho

    50,695 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • District of Columbia

    49,903 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Kansas

    49,666 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • New Jersey

    49,575 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Georgia

    49,374 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_(Georgia)_Presbyterian_Church.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Connecticut

    49,096 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • New Mexico

    49,044 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Missouri

    48,436 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • North Carolina

    46,737 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carolina_Baptist_Church.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New York

    44,488 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. <br> Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Church_in_Rye,_New_York.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Indiana

    43,788 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Ohio

    42,744 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • California

    42,430 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Virginia

    41,304 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Michigan

    40,186 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Delaware

    39,575 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Church,_Dover,_Delaware.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Wyoming

    39,341 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Maryland

    39,214 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Montana

    37,824 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Florida

    37,104 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Colorado

    36,461 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Hawaii

    36,103 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Arizona

    35,842 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • West Virginia

    35,211 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • New Hampshire

    34,617 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Nevada

    33,395 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/StJoanofArcCatholicChurch_in_Las_Vegas_founded_1910.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Washington

    33,065 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Methodist_Church_at_Historic_Washington_State_Park_IMG_1467.JPG" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Vermont

    32,954 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Alaska

    32,810 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons. Credit: Wikimedia Commons. Original photo <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/17/Orthodox_church_in_Seldovia%2C_Alaska.jpg" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Oregon

    30,101 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

  • Maine

    27,098 Christian adherents per 100,000 persons.

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