SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Indiana’s big cities are growing because young adults are moving in and because of the lingering effect of the Great Recession that stanched the flow of people to the suburbs, but many areas in the rest of the state are either holding steady or losing population, an Indiana University demographer said.
Census estimates for 2014 released Thursday indicate that some of Indiana’s biggest cities are showing stronger than normal growth, said Matt Kinghorn, demographer at IU’s Indiana Business Research. Indianapolis had the most new residents in Indiana in 2014 with 5,479, bringing its estimated population to 848,788, followed by Fort Wayne with 1,658 new residents, bringing its estimated population to 258,522.
Kinghorn said the millennial generation – those born roughly between 1980 and the mid-2000s – were a big reason for the population growth in big cities.
“As that group becomes an economic force, I think that could alter some of the housing and migration trends. I think you’re seeing that in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, where you’re seeing a lot of downtown apartment construction,” he said.
The population in Evansville, Indiana’s third biggest city, stayed flat at 120,346, with an estimated loss of 30 residents. South Bend’s population grew by an estimated 268 residents, its largest one-year growth in more than 20 years. The northern Indiana city, that had a population of 132,445 in 1960, three years before Studebaker stopped making cars in the city, saw its population drop to 100,990 by 2010. But it’s gained population in three of the past four years and is now at an estimated 101,190.
“Even though the number isn’t big, it’s a significant turnaround,” Kinghorn said.
Overall, 13 of Indiana’s 20 largest cities and towns had population increases and suburbs around Indianapolis continued to grow, although many by not by as much as in previous years. Gary and Hammond, two cities in northwest Indiana southeast of Chicago, each lost an estimated 600 residents.
“The urban and suburban stories are closely linked,” Kinghorn said. “I think it’s really a stubborn effect of the Great Recession. It started back in 2008 or so. We saw the urban-suburban flow of residents slow down a lot.”
Many other areas outside the big cities and suburban areas showed losses, which Kinghorn called a continuation of a long-term trend.
“It’s driven by industrial decline and there aren’t the strong magnets to hold those people in those communities or attract new people to the communities,” Kinghorn said.
Connersville, 60 miles east of Indianapolis, which lost 900 jobs when auto part maker Visteon Corp. closed in 2007, lost an estimated 208 residents. Marion, 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis, which lost 1,000 jobs when Thomson Consumer Electronics closed its television picture tube factory in 2004, lost an estimated 200 residents. Richmond, which is 70 miles east of Indianapolis and had an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in March, lost an estimated 172 residents.
Indiana’s population overall grew by 1.6 percent from 2010 to 2014, reaching nearly 6.6 million people. Indiana ranked 32nd nationwide in growth, a rate faster than neighboring states. Kentucky grew by 1.5 percent, Ohio by 0.5 percent and Michigan and Illinois by 0.3 percent. North Dakota grew the fastest at 9.7 percent, while Vermont was last at 0.1 percent