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Indiana Business Research Center

Carol Rogers
Indiana Business Research Center

Last modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slow growing: Population estimates for Indiana counties released

March 14, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Population growth in many of Indiana's suburban communities was still not back up to speed in 2012, and population decline was widespread in many other regions of the state, according to population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

In all, Indiana's annual population growth rate fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to a 0.32 percent increase. Sluggish population growth has been the norm in many parts of the country, however. Indiana's growth rate in 2012 still outpaced each of its neighboring states, according to the estimates.

In terms of annual growth rate from 2011 to 2012, suburban communities in the Indianapolis metro area claimed four of the top six spots among all Indiana counties. Hamilton County was the state's fastest-growing county with a 2.2 percent increase, followed by Boone County at 2 percent. Hendricks (1.3 percent) and Johnson (1.2 percent) counties ranked fourth and sixth, respectively. However, the growth in Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson counties was well below their annual averages from 2000 to 2010.

Hamilton County added 6,294 residents in 2012 compared to an average annual increase of 9,181 from 2000 to 2010. Hendricks County's population growth in 2012 was roughly half as large as its annual average in the past decade, while Johnson County's growth last year was nearly three-quarters as large. Boone County, in contrast, was able to buck this trend, as its growth of 1,139 residents last year was slightly higher than its average annual growth from 2000 to 2010

Following two years (2010 and 2011) when it ranked among the top five metro areas in the country in Gross Domestic Product growth, Bartholomew County (Columbus) was the state's third-fastest-growing county with a 1.7 percent increase last year. This marks Bartholomew County's fastest one-year growth rate since 1995. Tippecanoe County rounded out the top five fastest-growing counties with a 1.3 percent rate of change.

Marion County posted the state's largest numeric growth with an increase of 7,972 residents in 2012. The other top gainers were Hamilton (6,294), Tippecanoe (2,340), Hendricks (2,001) and Allen (1,876) counties.

Outside of a handful of metropolitan areas, many Indiana communities lost population in 2012. Lake County had the state's largest population decline in 2012 at 1,535 residents, followed by Madison County (-741), Delaware County (-420) and Wayne County (-347). As for the pace of decline, Union County had the state's highest rate of population loss last year at 1.5 percent, followed by Warren County (-1.5 percent), Switzerland County (-1.4 percent) and Pulaski County (-1.4 percent).

In all, 54 of Indiana's 92 counties lost population last year. According to past Census Bureau estimates, this is the largest number of Indiana counties to post a one-year decline since 1986, when 57 counties lost population.

"With a few notable exceptions, population growth is proving to be the ultimate lagging indicator in our steady yet slow economic recovery," said Matt Kinghorn, state demographer at the IBRC. "However, the experience of a community like Bartholomew County shows that a dynamic local economy will attract new residents."

Hamilton County had the state's largest net in-migration in 2012 at 3,779 residents. The remainder of the top five includes Tippecanoe (1,246), Hendricks (1,169), Johnson (1,104) and Bartholomew (965) counties.

At the other end of the spectrum, 67 Indiana counties had a net out-migration of residents in 2012, led by Lake and St. Joseph counties with a net outflow of 3,229 residents and 1,317 residents, respectively. Some counties with a net out-migration still posted population gains because the natural increase of their populations (more births than deaths) compensated for those that moved away.

Indiana's largest counties

Five Indiana counties have populations greater than 200,000. Marion County leads the way with a population of 918,977, which ranked as the nation's 55th largest county in 2012. The next largest counties are Lake (493,618), Allen (360,412), Hamilton (289,495) and St. Joseph (266,344).

The next five largest counties include Elkhart (199,619 residents in 2012), Vanderburgh (180,858), Tippecanoe (177,513), Porter (165,682) and Hendricks (150,434) counties.

For more information about these estimates, go to 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 the latest projections of Indiana's Labor Force to 2040 and for the award-winning sites Hoosiers by the Numbers and STATS Indiana.