Indiana is a state that has seen its population growth largely driven by a handful of metropolitan areas, according to Joseph Kinghorn, Senior Demographer at the Indiana Business Research Center at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the state's population growth, with the number of deaths from the virus having a significant effect. Outside of the Indianapolis area, Parke County had the highest growth rate at 1.6%, followed by Clarke (1.2%), Perry (0.9%), Warrick (0.9%), and Putnam (0.9%). St.
Joseph County had the second largest decline in the state, with 337 residents, while Jackson County followed closely with a loss of 306 residents. In terms of rate of decline, Pulaski County had the steepest drop in the state last year, at 1.2%, followed by Jay (-1.0%), Knox (-0.8%), and Pike (-0.7%) counties. Marion County had the highest natural increase in the state, with 3,530 residents, followed by Hamilton (1.18), Allen (1.10), and Elkhart (92). The Indianapolis metropolitan area had a growth rate of 0.6%, ahead of other large metropolitan areas in neighboring states such as Columbus (Ohio) (0.5%), Cincinnati (0.1%), Louisville (0.0%), Detroit (-0.5%), Cleveland (-0.5%) and Chicago (-1.0%). The Fort Wayne area led all metropolitan areas in Indiana, with a growth rate of 0.7%, reaching a total population of more than 423,000 residents. The Gary Division of the Chicago metropolitan area (Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties) grew by 0.2% last year and is the second largest area in the state with 719,700 residents.
Marion County experienced the largest population decline last year, with 5,670 residents, or 0.6%. While many parts of Indiana lost population last year, Indianapolis and some other metropolitan counties saw increases. Data shows that the state's modest overall growth of 20,285 people, or 0.31 percent, remained stagnant due to people moving from the Midwest to the South and Southwest for warmer climates or job opportunities. Kinghorn noted that Indiana was still outperforming its neighboring states but was not offering enough economic magnets to cover its population loss. At the same time, Indiana has seen lower birth rates since the Great Recession while its death rate continues to rise due to an aging population. This trend should continue for the next 15 to 20 years according to Kinghorn. More than half of Indiana's 53 counties experienced population declines last year while 63 counties saw more people move in than move out.
Starting in Ohio County in southeastern Indiana and extending northwest across the state to Lake County as well as nearly every county along its western border, middle and rural counties also experienced declines. Perry (-1.84 percent), Pulaski (-1.64 percent), Warren (-1.38 percent), Blackford (-1.12 percent), and Grant (-1.12 percent) experienced the largest percentage losses while Hamilton County led the state in both percentage growth and numerical growth (7,201 people). The numerical growth was more than double that of Marion County. Kinghorn described Indianapolis's place among a wave of new cities that are generally doing well such as Columbus (Ohio) and Madison (Wisconsin). These cities are state capitals with diverse universities and economies unlike Cleveland and Detroit which are tied to a difficult industrial history. Marion County added 3,171 people last year while Hamilton County (and its doughnut) is doing even better due to people moving from urban to suburban areas again though not as strong as it was more than 10 years ago. University counties also helped according to Kinghorn due to students moving to university cities such as West Lafayette and Bloomington. The question remains: Is Indianapolis gaining or losing population? The answer is complex but it appears that while some parts of Indiana are losing population due to migration out of state or within state borders, Indianapolis is still seeing an increase in population due to its diverse economy and universities.