Indianapolis is preparing to celebrate its 200th birthday or anniversary. But Indianapolis isn’t that village invented by the General Assembly on the banks of the White River. Fifty years ago, Indianapolis took an important step forward establishing Unigov. It was an imperfect consolidation of governmental units which has remained virtually unchanged for half a century.

Today’s real Indianapolis is a composite of nine counties with a host of cities and towns, most of them remnants of pastoral villages, each battling to be “something.”

Today, the mayor of Indianapolis speaks of regionalism. His is a genteel appeal to overturn inequities, either created or endorsed by the Indiana General Assembly, that home of irrational and irresponsible 18th century sentimentality.

Eight counties serve as satellites of Marion County: Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Hancock, Shelby, Johnson, Morgan, and Hendricks. (Note: I do not call them parasites as would some central-city chauvinists.)

Unlike celestial satellites, these counties have extensive and diverse interactions with their host planet other than gravity alone. Commuting to work in Marion County is only the most prominent of these interactions which include shopping, health care, entertainment, and other services.

Even as these satellite counties grow and develop, Marion County is overwhelmingly important with nearly half of the metro’s population in 2017, contributing almost a third of its population growth 2007 to 2017.

Marion County accounted for 58 percent of all 2017 jobs in the metro area and 24 percent of the job growth 2007 to 2017. Of greater significance, Marion County had 67 percent of the earnings provided by those jobs in 2017 and 63 percent of the growth in earnings over the decade.

What does that tell us?

Simply, Marion’s jobs pay better than jobs in the satellite counties. With 58 percent of the jobs, Marion County contributed 67 percent of metro earnings. Plus, despite just a quarter of the growth in jobs, Marion County provided nearly two-thirds of the growth in earnings by metro workers and proprietors.

Perhaps more readily understood, the average job in Marion County paid $74,500 while the next highest average job was in Hamilton County at $59,800. The increase in average earnings from 2007 to 2017 in Marion County was 39 percent or $20,700; none of the other eight counties saw an increase greater than Hancock’s 28 percent or Hamilton’s $12,800.

The essence of regionalism is recognizing and respecting interdependency. This is not happening in the Indianapolis metro area. Satellite counties persist in their opposition to a regionwide transit system which could establish new connections among communities as well facilitating commutes and an efficient integration of other services. They will not work together for their common betterment.

Shortsighted? Fool-hardy? Will citizens throughout Indiana vote for the future in the forthcoming municipal elections or continue to support narcissistic and environmentally destructive sprawl? When will they ever learn?


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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