The 2020 Census is coming! Yes, that’s going to be more fun than the 2020 elections. We’ll learn something from the decennial Census. Dyspepsia is all we can expect from the quadrennial elections.

The Census will give us a better understanding of our communities compared with others in the nation. Nonetheless, we are not suffering from a lack of data. Unfortunately, too few Hoosiers know what is to be known about our communities.

For example, the nation has 383 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). Indiana has eight of those metros entirely within our borders. In addition, we can count Evansville as a ninth, although it does have a Kentucky county included. Furthermore, Indiana has four counties in the Chicago MSA, three in the Cincinnati MSA, and five in Louisville’s MSA.

How do we compare with metro areas in other places? Consider population. In 2017, only the Indianapolis MSA (I am leaving off the names of other places in the MSA titles) was in 100 most populous metro areas, ranking 34th. With just more than two million persons, Indy squeezed in between Cleveland (OH) and San Jose (CA).

Indy’s population was far smaller than the Chicago area (9.5 million), not far behind Cincinnati (2.2 million) and ahead of Louisville (1.3 million).

But what the residents of the Indy metro area probably don’t know is the total population of the central and surrounding counties grew by more than 134,000 between 2010 and 2017. This was a figure greater than any other MSA containing an Indiana county. Even the giant Chicago region failed to match this volume of growth.

Which is more important, the volume of growth or the rate of growth?

When your two kids move back in with you and your spouse/partner/ significant other, the volume is small, just the two of them, but that’s a 100% increase. It’s no problem if you have the infrastructure (bathrooms) to accommodate them. Otherwise, you have a new example of congestion.

The Lafayette MSA had the second highest amount of growth (18,100), the state’s highest percent change in population (9.1%) and was among the 100 fastest growing MSAs in the nation.

Nationwide, 87 (23%) of the 383 metro areas had lower populations in 2017 than in 2010. Traditionally, these would have been “declining” or “disintegrating” places. But in today’s environment, growth is not necessarily seen as a “blessing.” The mantra, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” is heard less frequently than in decades past.

Four Indiana MSAs lost population between 2010 and 2017. The decline was less than 2% in Michigan City-LaPorte, Muncie, and Terre Haute. The loss of 444 persons in Kokomo hardly registered, a decline of merely 0.5%. No doubt some challengers for mayor in those places will see catastrophe; the incumbents will pledge to stop the bleeding of “our youthful treasure.”

I’d wait for the 2020 Census results before attending the civic funeral.


Morton Marcus is an economist. Reach him at Follow his views and those of John Guy on “Who gets what?” wherever podcasts are available or at

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