Sluggish population growth becoming the norm in many Indiana communities

  • March 24, 2016

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE, 12:01 a.m. March 24, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Many Indiana communities saw a continued trend of slower population growth in 2015, according to population estimates released March 24 by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Nearly three out of every four counties in Indiana saw a level of population change in 2015 that was lower than its average annual change from 2000 to 2010.

Lake County has experienced the largest reversal in its population trends with an estimated decline of 2,709 residents in 2015, compared to an average annual gain of 1,144 people per year in the first decade of the 2000s.

“Some suburban communities in the Indianapolis area and in Northwest Indiana, while still continuing to grow, had the next-largest reductions in population growth between these two periods,” said Matt Kinghorn, demographer at the Indiana Business Research Center. “Hamilton County, for instance, led all Indiana counties in 2015 with an increase of 6,419 residents, but this mark was below the county’s average annual gain of 9,183 from 2000 to 2010. Porter and Hendricks counties have seen even more dramatic relative slips in growth.

“For most communities with slower population growth in recent years, these shifts date back to the beginning of the Great Recession,” Kinghorn added.          

Among the Indiana communities that have bucked this slowing trend, St. Joseph, Boone, Bartholomew, Allen and Elkhart counties had the largest increases in population change in 2015 compared to their annual averages in the 2000s.   

Statewide, Indiana added 21,800 residents in 2015 -- a 0.3 percent increase over the previous year. This was the state’s second-smallest annual population gain since 1989, well below the average annual increase of 40,332 residents from 2000 to 2010. Indiana ranked as the 30th fastest-growing state in 2015, with growth outpacing each of its neighboring states.

Indiana was the nation’s 16th most populous state in 2015 with nearly 6.62 million residents.

Population change around the state

Indiana’s four fastest-growing counties were all in the Indianapolis metro area. Boone County led the way for the second consecutive year with a 2.5 percent increase, followed by Hamilton County (2.1 percent), Johnson County (1.5 percent) and Hendricks County (1.4 percent).  

Bartholomew County was the fastest-growing county outside the Indianapolis metro area with a 1.2 percent pace of growth in 2015. The rest of the state’s top 10 counties were Tippecanoe (1.2 percent increase), Warrick (1.0 percent), Clark (0.9 percent), LaGrange (0.9 percent) and Harrison (0.9 percent).

In terms of the largest numeric gains, Hamilton County posted the state’s largest increase, adding 6,419 residents in 2015. Marion County was second, gaining 4,489 residents. For Marion County -- which had seen a surge in population growth from 2009 to 2013 -- the 2015 increase was its smallest one-year gain since 2005. Other top gainers include Allen (2,749), Tippecanoe (2,156) and Johnson (2,144) counties.

All told, 54 of Indiana’s 92 counties lost population in 2015. Lake County had the largest decline with an estimated loss of 2,709 residents. LaPorte County had the state’s second-largest drop at 811 residents, followed by Grant (-652), Wayne (-446) and Cass (-357) counties. In terms of the pace of decline, Parke County led the state last year with a 1.9 percent decline. Crawford (-1.4 percent), Ohio (-1.2 percent), Tipton (-1.0 percent) and Rush (-1.0) counties also posted significant losses in population last year.

A net out-migration of residents was the primary driver of decline in nearly all of these communities, as 65 Indiana counties had more people move away last year than they had move in. Lake County led this trend with an estimated net outflow of 3,776 movers in 2015, while Marion (-1,638) and LaPorte (-898) counties had the next-largest net outflows.

At the other end of the spectrum, Hamilton (4,104), Johnson (1,433), Hendricks (1,271) and Boone (1,164) counties in the Indianapolis metro area had the largest net in-migration of residents in 2015, followed by the university-driven communities in Tippecanoe (999) and Monroe (703) counties.

Looking at Indiana as a whole, after two years of relatively strong net inflows of residents, the state had an estimated net out-migration of 2,307 residents in 2015.

Indiana’s largest counties 

Indiana has six counties with populations greater than 200,000. Marion County is the state’s largest with 939,020 residents, ranking it as the nation’s 52nd most populous county in 2015 (out of 3,142 counties). Other large counties in the state include Lake (487,865), Allen (368,450), Hamilton (309,697), St. Joseph (268,441) and Elkhart (203,474).  

Rounding out the 10 largest counties in the state are Tippecanoe (185,826), Vanderburgh (181,877), Porter (167,688) and Hendricks (158,192).

Indiana’s metropolitan areas 

The 11-county Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metro area continues to drive population growth in the state. With an increase of nearly 17,000 residents last year, this region accounted for roughly 78 percent of Indiana’s net growth in 2015. The Indy metro area is home to nearly 1.99 million people, which represents 30 percent of the state’s population and ranks as the nation’s 34th-largest metro area (out of 381 metros).

Compared to large metro area peers in neighboring states, the Indy area’s growth rate of 0.9 percent in 2015 was lower than Columbus, Ohio (1.2 percent), but it outpaced Louisville (0.6 percent), Cincinnati (0.4 percent), Detroit (0.0 percent), Chicago (-0.1 percent) and Cleveland (-0.2 percent).

The three-county Fort Wayne area is the state’s second-largest metro area with 429,820 residents. The Fort Wayne metro area posted a 0.7 percent increase in 2015, ranking as the 125th-largest metro area in the nation. Indiana’s other large metro areas also grew last year, including South Bend-Mishawaka (0.2 percent), Evansville (0.2 percent), Lafayette-West Lafayette (1.0 percent) and Elkhart-Goshen (0.9 percent).

In all, 44 of Indiana’s 92 counties belong to a metropolitan area. These counties combined to account for 78 percent of Indiana’s total population, and as a group grew at a 0.5 percent rate in 2015. The state’s 48 counties that are not part of a metro area had a combined population loss of 2,937 residents last year -- a 0.2 percent decline.

For more information about these estimates, visit the Population topic page at STATS Indiana.

The IBRC is part of a national network of State Data Centers and acts as the official state representative to the Census Bureau on matters relating to the census and population estimates. It receives support from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development for this work, including for the websites Hoosiers by the Numbers and the award-winning STATS Indiana.

Related Links

Percent Change in Population, 2014-15

Percent Change in Population, 2014-15

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Media Contacts

George Vlahakis

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Matthew Kinghorn

  • Indiana Business Research Center
  • Office 812-856-0459