The Amish are famous for their rejection of modern conveniences. Refusing to drive, use electricity in the home, and more are all hallmarks of their relatively enigmatic faith and lifestyle.
But what about when it comes to the legal parts of society. For example, do the Amish have social security numbers?
The short answer is yes. But like many questions about the Amish, there’s a much longer and more nuanced answer as well.
In this blog, we’ll dive into some of the details around the Amish use of social security numbers, including the reasons that an Amish person could have for having (and using) one in the first place.
To start, let’s expand on the answer to our original question.
Do the Amish Have Social Security Numbers? (Yes)
The answer is a little complicated: The Amish do, in fact, get social security numbers shortly after their births — or at least they’re supposed to get them.
However, the Amish exempt themselves from social security benefits because each of their communities observes a form of socialized healthcare, so they don’t pay into social security or receive benefits from it.
As a result, social security numbers almost exclusively act as a form of identification.
While not the only option for an Amish person to identify themselves, a social security number forms the foundation of that process. All other forms of ID that an Amish person may acquire come from their social security number, as far as the government is concerned.
Other forms of identification, like family trees or heirloom Bibles, may exist for cultural or community purposes, but they’re generally not accepted forms of identification for government- or business-related needs.
Still, this begs an important follow-up question. Why would the Amish choose to get a social security number and ignore the potential benefits? Even if they used community-based healthcare to support one another, wouldn’t it help to have some extra cash come into the community to support its older members?
In short, the Amish don’t want (or sometimes even need) access to social security benefits because of their belief system and the way that belief system informs the structure of their communities.
The full answer to these questions lies deep in that belief system itself.
Which Amish Beliefs Conflict with Social Security Benefits?
Despite the fact that the Amish emphasize simplicity in their way of life, the rules by which they live their daily lives have become increasingly complex as the world and technology has evolved.
However, there are still some key tenets of the Amish beliefs that keep them from engaging with modern ideas like social security.
The Amish resistance to the idea of “luxury” is perhaps the largest barrier to the Amish engaging with social security. While social security income is viewed as a necessity by most non-Amish who age into the program, the Amish define the idea of luxury much more broadly than non-Amish.
Their resistance to private health insurance is a similar example of this. In the Amish perspective, health insurance is a luxury because it’s not essential to everyday life.
Instead of using health insurance, Amish communities pool their cash together in a microcosmic version of socialized healthcare that pays for anyone’s medical expenses.
Similarly, engaging with social security may help older Amish earn an income as they age, but that income isn’t essential to their way of life.
Instead, the older members of Amish families tend to live with their children and grandchildren, typically on larger farms where there’s always something to do and a variety of ways to earn income.
As a result, social security isn’t viewed as a necessity from a financial standpoint. But because social security numbers are used as a form of identification, the Amish still get them.
Does Every Single Amish Person Have a Social Security Number?
Every American Amish person should have a social security number assigned to them at the time of their birth, just as any non-Amish American citizen.
(Obviously, this doesn’t apply to Canadian Amish since Canada has its own system of identification and retirement support.)
With it, the Amish have a permanent form of identification that they can use for high-value interactions with other parts of society, like securing a loan from a bank.
This is especially important since the main form of identification in America — the driver’s license — is not an option for the Amish since they never learn how to drive. They also don’t need a license to drive a buggy.
As a result, the Amish have more limited options when it comes to identification. Typically, the Amish will use their social security numbers to obtain standard photo IDs or even passports, in the unlikely event that they travel.
This gives them the same level of identification and access to services that the non-Amish may enjoy with the important distinction that they can’t legally (or religiously) drive a vehicle on the road.
It’s also a way that an Amish person may need to be identified in the event they’re the subject of a criminal investigation, a civil lawsuit, or some other legal matter.
As a result, ever single Amish person has a social security number in the United States — just as every non-Amish citizen does.
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