New statistics show Indiana’s population grew in 2013 after falling for six straight years — but they also show a tale of two types of counties.
It’s a tale of urban and rural population trends moving in different directions. And it’s expressed in the data on most area counties, too.
Indiana’s population grew at a rate of 0.51 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday that were analyzed by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The state added 33,120 people to grow to a population of 6.57 million.
That’s important, because population growth is typically viewed as a sign of an improving economy.
Clark County's population grew from 111,951 in 2012 to 112,938 in 2013, a 0.88 percent gain; Floyd County grew by 1.3 percent, to 76,244 from 75,283.
“Here in Indiana, population change goes hand in hand with our economic fortunes,” said Matt Kinghorn, demographer with the Indiana Business Research Center. “So when the economy is going well, we tend to draw more residents to the state. And when the economy is slumping, then our population figures slump as well.”
Population change can be driven by different factors, Kinghorn added. But even if the state’s new residents are directly linked to an expanding economy, evaluating this week’s new data isn’t as simple as sticking a gold star beside the state’s overall growth rate.
A closer look shows some counties growing and others shrinking. A total of 46 Indiana counties grew — including Clark and Floyd — while 43 lost residents. Another three recorded populations that were virtually unchanged.
In many cases, urban and suburban counties tended to grow, according to Kinghorn. Rural counties tended to lose population.
The trend is illustrated by the state’s fastest-growing and fastest-shrinking counties. A rural county, Fountain County, had the steepest population drop-off in the state, 1.3 percent. It lost 216 people to fall to a population of 16,880.
Hamilton County north of Indianapolis, on the other hand, was home to Indiana’s highest growth rate. Hamilton County grew by a whopping 2.52 percent, adding 7,294 people to hit a population of 296,693. In fact, suburban counties around Indianapolis posted the top four growth rates in the state.