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Matthew Kinghorn
Indiana Business Research Center

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010

IBRC: Slow population growth for some suburban counties during economic downturn

March 23, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The economic slump of 2008 and 2009 appears to have dampened population movement in many parts of Indiana. This trend is most noticeable in central Indiana, according to 2009 population estimates released today (March 23) by the U.S. Census Bureau and analyzed by Indiana University's Indiana Business Research Center.

Population Percentage Change

Hamilton, Marion and Hendricks counties registered the largest population increases among Indiana counties. However, the growth in Hamilton and Hendricks counties was well below their annual averages during this decade.

Hamilton County added 8,350 residents in 2009 compared to an average annual increase of 10,700 between 2000 and 2008. Hendricks County grew by an average of 4,060 people annually over this same period compared to 2,780 residents in 2009.

In contrast, Marion County saw its population grow by 7,770 in 2009 compared to an average annual growth of just 2,770 previously this decade.

The IBRC, housed within IU's Kelley School of Business, has long been the state of Indiana's official representative to the census bureau through the Federal-State Cooperative on Population Estimates. It also serves as the Governor's Liaison to Census, and it is a partner in the Indiana Data Center Program. It also is a key partner with the governor's office and the census bureau to promote participation in this year's count.

Matt Kinghorn, an economic research analyst in the IBRC, said the source of these shifting trends is a recent slowdown in migration that has been experienced in Indiana and nationally.

"In central Indiana, many of the suburban counties have seen a decline in migration in 2009 while Marion County registered its first annual net in-migration of residents in this decade as fewer residents moved to surrounding counties," Kinghorn said.

Of the 15 Indiana counties that led the state in net in-migration between 2000 and 2008, 10 had a net migration in 2009 that was below their average for the previous years of the decade. Those that continued strong in-migration were Boone County near Indianapolis, the university communities of Tippecanoe and Monroe counties, and Clark and Floyd counties in the Louisville metro area.

Indiana's largest counties

Six Indiana counties have populations greater than 200,000, led by Marion County which, with a population 890,880, ranked as the nation's 56th largest county in 2009. The next largest counties are Lake (494,210), Allen (353,890), Hamilton (279,290), St. Joseph (267,610) and Elkhart (200,500).

Each of these county's populations has grown over the decade. Since 2000, Marion County has added 30,420 residents (3.5 percent growth) while Allen County's population has grown by 22,040 (6.6 percent). Elkhart County has added 17,710 residents (9.7 percent). Lake and St. Joseph counties have had comparatively lesser gains at 9,650 (2.0 percent) and 2,050 (0.8 percent), respectively.

No Indiana county, however, can match Hamilton County's growth of 96,550 residents since 2000. This mark is more than two and a half times greater than second-ranked Hendricks County's growth tally of 36,510.

The state's fastest growing counties are found in central Indiana. Between 2000 and 2009, 52 of Indiana's 92 counties have experienced population growth. Here are a few highlights about Indiana's growing counties:

  • Hamilton County leads the state in both the numeric and percent growth of population between 2000 and 2009. The county's 96,550 new residents since 2000 represent a 53 percent increase. This rate of growth ranks Hamilton County as the 21st fastest growing county in the nation and the fourth fastest in the Midwest.
  • The next four fastest growing counties between 2000 and 2009 also border Marion County, led by Hendricks County with a 35 percent growth (which ranked 86th nationally). Rounding out the top five are Hancock County (23 percent), Johnson County (23 percent) and Boone County (22 percent).
  • Outside of these suburban Indianapolis communities, Indiana's fastest growing counties between 2000 and 2009 are Tippecanoe County (13 percent), Clark County (13 percent), Warrick County (12 percent), Porter County (11 percent) and Elkhart County (10 percent).

Forty Indiana counties have lost population this decade

Although counties experiencing population loss in recent years are found throughout Indiana, the largest declines are concentrated in the east-central and north-central regions of the state.

Between 2000 and 2009, Grant County had the state's largest population decline at 4,600, followed by Delaware County (-3,580), Wayne County (-3,550) and Wabash County (-2,400). Benton County led Indiana in the rate of population loss since 2000 with a 9 percent decline followed by White, Blackford and Wabash counties each with a 7 percent loss.

The combined losses of these 40 counties totaled 40,260 residents over this period. To put these population declines in perspective, this total is nearly offset by the population gains in Hendricks County alone and offset more than twice-over by the growth of Hamilton County.

For more information on population estimates, visit the STATS Indiana website: Information about the 2010 Census is available online at