The Indiana University Public Policy Institute has released a study that details disparities in the personal and economic situations of Indiana communities. Senior Policy Analyst John Marron says the Community Vitality Index suggests mid-sized areas found a "sweet spot" in the analysis, while rural and urban areas struggled in many measures. He says another "striking" theme is the difference in performance between some regions versus their lower-performing counterparts.
Marron says central, northern, northeast and southwest Indiana fared well.
It considers factors for each county, including income, education attainment and unemployment and disability benefits use rates, as well as measures like life expectancy and obesity levels.
Marron says "it’s immediately apparent how well counties with midsized communities fare relative to urban and rural counties. Perhaps what is more interesting, however, is seeing the impact of regional hubs within regions. The Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend regions fare relatively well throughout their entire regions, while the Muncie and Terre Haute regions seem to be experiencing greater challenges. This would be unsurprising if the index only included economic measures, but the measures seem to hold true across measures of health and well-being as well."
The institute says other key findings include:
- Midsized counties collectively perform exceedingly well on these measures relative to rural and urban communities.
- Educational attainment in rural areas lags behind urban and midsized communities, contributing considerably to greater economic challenges.
- Residents of urban areas spend substantially more of their incomes on housing than those in rural or midsized counties.
- Communities adjacent to urban areas; university centers; and areas with robust, specialized manufacturing industries appear to be faring well.
- Areas that lost considerable employment with the decline of the manufacturing sector and rural counties not proximate to major metropolitan areas experience the greatest degree of challenges.
- Indiana’s larger regional centers (Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend) anchor thriving regions that benefit surrounding counties and the state as a whole.
- Regions historically centered on manufacturing and regions with their central city located outside of the state fare less well than other regions.
You can connect to more information about the Community Vitality Index by clicking here.
IU Public Policy Institute Senior Policy Analyst John Marron says there were some outliers to the common themes of the research.