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Carol Rogers

George Vlahakis
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Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2003

IU analysts: Indiana's population gains are slow and small, but also steady

EDITORS: The U.S. Census Bureau early today (Dec. 18) released population projections for all 50 states. IU's Indiana Business Research Center serves as the state's official liaison to the bureau. This release offers analysis on this new data. Supplemental maps and charts will be placed on IBRC's Web site at

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- By the summer of 2003, Indiana's population had grown to 6.19 million and the state kept its rank as the 14th largest in the nation. However, Indiana's annual rate of growth during this first decade of the new century continues to be less than 1 percent, say researchers in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

According to the latest release of the state population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, Indiana is holding its own with its Midwest neighbors, but in fractions. The latest data show that Indiana's growth rate of 0.6 percent was one-tenth higher than the growth rate for the Midwest, 0.5 percent, and two-tenths higher than the rate for the Northeast -- "a positive blip in a game of inches for these sections of the country," said Carol Rogers, associate director of the Indiana Business Research Center at IU.

While county-level estimates for 2003 won't be released until spring, Rogers believes that Indiana's continued growth stems from in-migration in and around Indianapolis, the number of births over deaths, and net international migration.

The greater Indianapolis metropolitan area, most notably Hamilton County, explains some of the state's growth. Most notably, Hamilton County ranks fifth in the nation out of 3,141 counties in the percentage of adults holding a bachelor's degree. "Indianapolis continues to attract young professionals, many of whom live in Hamilton County," Rogers said.

"Births count, too, as a significant contribution to population growth," Rogers said, adding that births in Indiana in 2002 were estimated at nearly 85,000.

"According to the Census Bureau, more than half, or 55 percent, of the nation's population growth between 2002 and 2003 resulted from natural increase, with the remaining 45 percent coming from net international migration," Rogers said. "For Indiana, 77 percent of our growth can be attributed to natural increase. While there was positive in-migration, most of that was not from domestic in-migration but rather people migrating here from other countries."

The IBRC serves as the state's official liaison with the U.S. Bureau of the Census and works with the state and its localities to provide a full and accurate accounting of Indiana's population.

Indiana compared with other states

Population growth from 2000 to 2003 was about the same for Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky (each at 1.9 percent) and slightly more in Wisconsin (2.0 percent). Growth was relatively slow for Michigan (1.4 percent) and Ohio (0.7 percent). However, all of these are lower than the growth of the nation over the same period (3.3 percent).

The population estimates show the continued shift of population to southern and western portions of the United States, with the fastest-growing states sharing warm weather characteristics. They are Nevada, with a rate of growth of 3.4 percent, Arizona, growing at 2.6 percent and the state that likely will surpass Indiana by the end of the decade; Florida, 2.0 percent; and Texas, 1.8 percent.

Between 2002 and 2003, Arizona overtook Maryland to become the 17th largest state in the nation. If Arizona's fast pace of last year were to continue, it will surpass Indiana in 2009. Closer on Indiana's heels is the state of Washington, with just 64,198 fewer residents in 2003. Washington's growth rate is almost twice as much as Indiana's, and it may exceed Indiana in population as early as 2006.

Conversely, some larger states are growing more slowly than Indiana, so the Hoosier state may pass them eventually. At current rates of growth, Indiana will have more residents than Massachusetts in 2012.

"It's not realistic to assume that current short-term growth rates will continue indefinitely," said Jerry Conover, director of IBRC. "If they did, Indiana would have a larger population than either Ohio or Michigan in the latter part of the next century. Similarly, if Arizona's population kept growing at its current rate, it would then be more than 600 million, which might strain the water supplies in that arid region."

North Dakota and the District of Columbia were the only states to lose population between 2002 and 2003. While the District continues to grow jobs, having added nearly 50,000 non-farm jobs between 1998 and 2002, some of the people holding those jobs seem more likely to live in surrounding states, with commute times getting increasingly longer.

Of the 10 states that have a population estimate between 5 million and 7.4 million for 2003, Indiana ranked ninth in growth over the 2000-03 period. Only Massachusetts had a lower growth rate over the same period (1.3 percent). Arizona tops this list (8.8 percent).