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Indiana Rural Counties Losing Population To Cities

More than half of Indiana’s 92 counties saw population decline last year, according to an Indiana Business Research Center report.

population change

Photo: Indiana Business Research Center

A map from the Indiana Business Research Center shows population increases and declines across the state.

Indiana’s rural communities are losing residents to the state’s urban areas, according to research by the Indiana Business Research Center.

Fifty-four of Indiana’s 92 counties shed population last year, with eight losing more than one percent of their residents.

Orange County Economic Development Partnership spokesperson Mike Fields says his county has lost a couple hundred residents since the 2010 census. He says he’s been working to entice more people to live in the county, rather than just visit the tourist attractions which produce much of the county’s economic development money.

“We are trying to attract some industry so that we can attract some people for new jobs, we have couple of sites that we have already got for industry and everything,” Fields says.

IBRC demographer Matt Kinghorn says the message is that counties with large cities are doing better than those without.

“Metropolitan areas and urban areas, what attract people there is economic diversity, ” Kinghorn says. “So I think that we need to see that maybe in some of more Indiana, mid-sized communities, and Monroe county as well to help to stem a tide of people moving away, either commuting to urban areas for work or moving to metropolitan areas for work.”

Owen County Economic Development Corporation spokesperson Denise Shaw says the first step is to keep people from leaving the county, starting with young adults.

“We have some good strong youth engagement programs here in the community that just recently been developed, and I think it takes us a while to see the results of that,” she says. “But we are very encouraged, allowing our young to have a voice, and if you allow them to have a voice, they are more likely to be engaged, and they are more likely to be return or to stay.

Lake County lost the most people last year, shrinking by more than 1,500 residents. The counties with the biggest percentage loss include Orange, Spencer, Rush and Pulaski.

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