The senior demographic analyst at the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business says recent data released by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed few surprises regarding the state’s population makeup. But Matt Kinghorn says it does further illustrate declining populations in rural counties. Forty-nine of Indiana’s 92 counties saw a decline in population over the last decade and most were in rural Indiana.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Kinghorn said of the 15 counties with the smallest populations, 14 of them saw their numbers shrink in the last decade.
“This represents the largest number of Indiana counties to show a decline between censuses since the 1980s,” said Kinghorn. “Most rural counties and most kind of midsize counties, midsize communities are seeing population decline. More than 50% of counties nationwide declined. So, it is not a situation that’s unique to Indiana.”
The hotspot for growth is in central Indiana with five collar counties around Marion County seeing the largest growth over the past decade – Hamilton County up 26.5%, Boone County up 25%, Hendricks County up 20.2%, Johnson County up 15.8%, and Hancock County up 14.1%
Despite the jump, Kinghorn says the level of growth is still well below that seen during much of the 1990s and 2000s, especially in Hamilton County.
“It’s a fifth decade in a row that Hamilton County has led to state population growth. So, this is a long-standing trend. It actually grew quite a bit slower this decade that did last decade and during the 90s,” said Kinghorn.
In real numbers, Hamilton County’s population grew by 73,000 people, slightly behind Indianapolis and Marion County which grew by nearly 74,000.
Within the next two years, Kinghorn expects Carmel and Fishers to surpass South Bend in terms of city ranking. South Bend, with a population of 103,453, is the fourth largest city behind Indy, Fort Wayne and Evansville. Carmel’s population is 99,757 and Fishers is 98,977.
Kinghorn says the population growth over the past decade was driven largely by gain among the state’s minority populations.
“Minority populations are exclusively driving growth. We anticipated that would happen, but especially on the on the growing diversity side, the numbers were more dramatic than we expected,” said Kinghorn.
In April, the Census Bureau released preliminary data showing Indiana’s population grew by 4.7% between 2010 and 2020. The state’s population is now 6.7 million. Unlike Indiana’s neighboring states of Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, the Hoosier State will not lose a Congressional seat. It will remain at nine
Indiana lawmakers will use the data to redraw Congressional and State legislator districts to deal with shifts in population numbers. While not commenting about the political process of redistricting, Kinghorn says the population shift will result in changes in the 11 counties of central Indiana.
“Its share of the state’s total population jumped from 29% to 31%. So almost 1/3 of all Hoosiers live in those 11 counties in the metro area,” said Kinghorn. “It will certainly gain a greater share of political representation, political power, public resources and so on.”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Kinghorn said shifts in Indiana’s population reflects national trends.