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Matt Kinghorn
Indiana Business Research Center

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recession disrupts population trends in many Indiana cities and towns

Editors: Matt Kinghorn, an economic analyst at the Indiana Business Research Center, is available to discuss population estimates for Indiana. He can be reached at 812-856-0459 or

June 23, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Suburban areas in the Indianapolis metro area and Lake County have led Indiana's population growth over the last decade. The Town of Fishers nearly doubled its population since 2000 and Carmel, Noblesville and Greenwood each had population growth above 30 percent.

The recent economic recession, however, has tempered growth in many of these suburban communities. Towns such as Fishers, Noblesville, Greenwood and Crown Point had population increases in 2009 that were well below their average marks since 2000. In contrast, 12 of Indiana's 13 largest cities saw greater-than-average population change in 2009.

Indiana Populations 2009

These shifting trends reflect the slowdown in migration seen in Indiana and much of the nation due to the recession. Factors such as the housing market slump and employment insecurity result in fewer people moving from central cities to suburban areas. The tough employment climate means that fewer people are relocating for new jobs. As a result, many of Indiana's larger cities have held on to more of their residents over this period.

These are some of the key findings from the Census Bureau's release this week of population estimates for all cities, towns and townships. The Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, in its role as Indiana's official representative to the U.S. Census Bureau, has analyzed these population estimates and shares the following highlights.

Indiana's largest cities

Four Indiana cities had populations greater than 100,000 in 2009: Indianapolis (807,584), Fort Wayne (255,890), Evansville (116,584), and South Bend (104,215). Only Indianapolis has experienced consistent population growth since 2000 with a 3.3 percent increase. Fort Wayne lost population early in the decade but has since rebounded to see a 0.8 percent increase over 2000. Evansville and South Bend have each had population declines of 4 percent since 2000.

Indianapolis was the 14th largest city in the United States in 2009, ranking just behind Jacksonville, Fla., and ahead of Austin, Texas.

Among Indiana's 20 largest cities, Fishers is the fastest growing with an 86.2 percent increase between 2000 and 2009. Other fast-growing cities include Noblesville (44.8 percent), Greenwood (32.5 percent), Carmel (30.5 percent) and Lawrence (13.3 percent). Out of the top 20 largest cities, those with the greatest rate of population loss since 2000 include Hammond (-7.8 percent), Gary (-6.9 percent), Muncie (- 4.4 percent), Anderson (-4.2 percent) and Evansville (-4.2 percent).

Fishers also had the largest numeric growth of all Indiana cities since 2000 with a gain of 32,884 residents. Fishers' growth has slowed some in recent years. Fishers' increase of 2,399 residents in 2009 is well below its average annual growth of 3,701 between 2000 and 2008. Indianapolis had the largest numeric population gain in 2009 with 6,854 new residents. This mark is three times as large as the city's average annual growth between 2000 and 2008.

Suburbs led growth

Hamilton County is home to three of the top four cities in numeric gains between 2000 to 2009 -- Fishers, Carmel and Noblesville. The nine cities or towns with the largest population gains were located in just four counties, all in the Indianapolis metro area (Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson and Marion).

In all, 16 of the top 20 gainers are in either the Indianapolis metro area or Lake County. Lafayette (ranked 13th), Portage (17th), Mishawaka (19th) and Jeffersonville (20th) were the only cities outside of the Indianapolis metro area or Lake County that ranked among the top 20.

Gazelle communities

The town of Winfield in Lake County is the state's fastest-growing locale with a 131 percent increase since 2000 to bring its 2009 population estimate to 4,683.

Following Winfield as the state's fastest-growing communities in this decade are Fishers (86.2 percent), Kempton (83.2 percent), Pittsboro (65.7 percent) and New Palestine (65.3 percent).

Town and country

Most Hoosiers live in cities or towns. Of Indiana's 6.4 million residents, 64.9 percent live in places that were legally incorporated as of Jan. 1, 2009. This share is down only slightly from the 2000 population estimate level of 65.8 percent.

Indiana's population growth in this decade was split almost equally between incorporated and unincorporated areas with unincorporated areas claiming 52 percent of all growth. Unincorporated areas led the state's population increase early in this decade accounting for 73 percent of growth between 2001 and 2005. Today's estimates show that this trend has sharply reversed in the last four years, with the incorporated areas of the state accounting for 70 percent of all growth between 2006 and 2009.