Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.
Uncle Sam, via his Census Bureau, just before Christmas, gave us the news: Idaho had the fastest growing population in the nation. The great potato state had an estimated 2.2 percent increase from July 1, 2016 to the same date in 2017.
“Why not us?” Alzo Incognito asked. “Is there something wrong with the Hoosier State, the spark plug of America, the carburetor of commerce?”
“Population change is simple and complex,” I told him.
“What’s complex?” he asked. “People are born, they die and they move from place to place.”
“True, but why? There’s the complexity,” I responded. “Indiana ranked 24th among the 50 states in rate of growth ’16-’17 at 0.5 percent increase. This compared with a 0.7 national rate and well behind Idaho’s 2.2 percent. However, we grew faster than any of our four adjacent, neighboring states.”
“I get tired of that neighboring state stuff,” Alzo said.
“There’s a neighborhood effect,” I argued, “that can’t be ignored. “The Midwest added population at a sluggish 0.3 percent rate while the South and the West were growing by one percent each.”
“But why?” he asked again.
“We don’t have the latest age data yet,” I said, “but I’d bet it has to do with who left our state. Indiana had net domestic out-migration of 57,900 persons while Idaho had net domestic in-migration of 61,300 between 2010 and 2017.”
“Idaho had more people moving in than we had people moving out? Who’da thought?” Alzo was puzzled.
“On balance, Yes.” I assured him.
“And who moves?” I posed the question then followed with the answer. “Younger people move, older people tend to stay put. And --- no surprise here --- younger people pack their fertility with them in the U-Haul van.”
“So Indiana ends up with fewer babies!” he declared.
“Not so fast,” I cautioned. “Our 605,000 births since 2010 ranks 15th in the nation, remembering we’re now 17th in total population. There doesn’t seem to be anything in our water diminishing passion among Hoosiers. The issue is 435,000 Hoosiers died since 2010, the 14th highest level among the states.”
As I feared, Alzo faded with the accumulation of numbers, percentages, and ranks. But I had to finish the picture that put all those jigsaw pieces together.
“Indiana’s population gain of 182,700 since 2010 is not to be belittled, The percent change may be small, but those people have to be housed, fed, provided with water, plus protected in their homes and on the streets. Many require education and/or health care.
“Above all, 40 percent of that increase, nearly 73,000 people, were migrants from another country. Some came to America and Indiana for a better education. Others came with hopes of commercial success. And now we have a chance to join them in realizing their potential.”
Alzo nodded agreement, but I knew he was out of it, for now.