A slice of the Upper Midwest contains a strange and little-known sect that is multiplying faster than any other group on earth.
Population experts are agape a the amazing Hutterites, a communal religious sect of 8,000 people who inhabit 98 modern agricultural colonies and 500,000 acres of land in North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
The full story of the fertility of the swift-multiplying Hutterites has been developed by the Population Reference Bureau, Inc., a non-government research organization in Washington, base don an extensive study by Doctors Joseph W. Eaton and Albert J. Mayer of the sociology and anthropology department of Detroit’s Wayne University.
Here are some of the highlights of the reproduction capacities of the Hutterites, whose statistical story reads like a human multiplication table:
The Hutterites are out-multiplying such rapidly-growing peoples as the Brazilians, Mexicans, Ceylonese and Malayans.
The majority of Hutterite women with completed families have had nine or more children.
Only a taboo on teenage marriages prevents the Hutterites from approaching “the theoretical maximum in human fertility,” in the words of Robert C. Cook, chief of the population reference bureau.
Of 340 completed Hutterite families studied, 124 of them had 11 or more children, 40 had 10 children, and 42 had 9 children.
Nine children is the median number of offspring in the 340 completed Hutterite families studied.
Married Hutterite women in the 25 to 29 age bracket average one birth every two years.
The average Hutterite mother in the age bracket of 45 to 49 already has had 10.9 children.
The Hutterites are doubling their population every 16 years. This would mean an American population of 320 million persons by 1970 if Americans reproduced at the same rate as the Hutterite sect.
The average annual Hutterite birth rate is 45.9 per thousand of population, as against only 24.1 for the United States as a whole.
The average rate of annual increase is 41.5 per thousand for the Hutterites, as against 13.9 for the United States, 12 for Russia, 33.6 for Costa Rica, 23.4 for Brazil, 26.9 for Ceylon and 28 for Malaya.
These statistics leave the population experts bug-eyed and scrambling for reasons to explain this modern phenomenon of huge families, high birth rate and low death rate.
Cook thinks he can find many possible reasons in the heritage and life of the Hutterites, a sect that originated in 1528 in Switzerland and Bohemia, taking its name from Jacob Hutter, who espoused development of communal life during the reformation.
Persecuted in western Europe, the Hutterites sought refuge in Russia during the regime of Catherine the Great. In the period 1874-77, the Hutterites feared another wave of persecution and fled Russia to settle in southeastern South Dakota.
The Hutterites hold their land and property in common. There are no rich and no poor and virtually no class distinctions. When a colony numbers 100, the parent group sponsors a new colony and purchases the land and necessary equipment and builds the homes.
—Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, December 5, 1954, p. 24.