Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

U.S. Census Bureau findings show Indiana faces a significant decline in population growth


The Kelley School of Business Indiana Business Research Center found Indiana is seeing the most significant decrease in population growth since 2015, according to research based on findings by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Marion County has experienced the worst decrease in population growth since last year, accounting for a decrease of 5,670 residents, according to the Bureau’s figures. 

Matt Kinghorn, a senior demographic analyst at the IBRC, said the pandemic played a major role in slowing population growth.

“As far as the biggest declines last year, Marion County, which is Indianapolis, had a pretty sharp decline,” Kinghorn said. “That was due mostly to a net outflow of residents or net migration.”

He said that in the 2010s, Indiana’s population grew by about 31,000 residents per year. Last year, however, it only grew about 21,000.

He said population changes have two drivers: natural increase and migration patterns. Natural increase is the difference between the number of births and deaths in a year, and migration patterns are trends in people moving in or out of the state. Kinghorn said the natural increase is usually the dominant driver of population growth but in the last year, the data only showed approximately 600 more births than deaths. 

He said the 0.3% increase in Monroe County was lower than to be expected, but the natural decrease justified the data. The term natural decrease means the number of deaths outnumbers births.

Kinghorn said the pandemic hindered much of the growth in 2021, but for 10 years, U.S. Census data showed a decline in life expectancy in Indiana. He said the opioid epidemic impacted community results.

“So in 2021, we had the lowest number of births on record and that record dates back to the late 1960s,” Kinghorn said.

He said these numbers are a concern not only for families but also for the labor force.

Riley Zipper, a regional economic development data analyst at the IBRC, said the findings have government-related implications too. 

“When the population goes up, the amount of money that government can collect in taxes increases, and the number of public services that they can provide can increase,” Zipper said. 

He said rural communities are typically impacted the most by such changes. There is a growing divide between higher and lower-income counties in Indiana – especially in terms of life expectancy, he said. 

Zipper said places like Carmel in Hamilton County, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, have a life expectancy of 81 years, according to a 1986-2018 study analysis by Kinghorn. However, in Scott County in the southeastern portion of the state, the life expectancy is 72 years. 

Aside from the pandemic, Zipper said the quality of education affected people’s motives for migration and as a direct result, the population growth rate. 

Education plays a big role in families' decision to move to a city, and a lack of investment in this causes them to choose other cities, he said. Indiana’s educational budget in 2010 was 3.2% of the gross domestic product, but it dropped to 2.76% in 2019.

Zipper said perhaps with policy changes and community-oriented projects, people will stay in the same city. It will take time, but the population growth will return, he said. 

Carol Rogers, the co-director of the IBRC, said census data helps analysts and others who are curious learn about residents and their households on a state, country and global level. 

“From the census, we can see how people are deciding to live,” Rogers said. “It’s comparable to other places because every community is going to have something distinctive, and these data can help us discover.”

Rogers said she encourages people to look at data and start asking questions about the decreasing population growth rate. 

“The IBRC has partnered with state agencies for decades,” Rogers said. “We do it with them – trying to discover the issue and then come up with ways to visualize, quantity and identify solutions with evidence.”

Get stories like this in your inbox