Knestor Knobstone said, “It’s the usual mix of candidates running for seats in the Indiana General Assembly. There’s old timers in safe seats, eager hopefuls in ‘unwinnable’ districts, and total newcomers in a few highly contested races; they all think they know all about Indiana.”

“You doubt that?” I said.

“Some do, most don’t,” Knestor said.

“Surely,” I said, “they know Indiana’s population has grown less rapidly (0.8% annual average) than the nation (1.1%) from 1949 to 2019. Our share of the U.S. population has shrunk from 2.66% to 2.05% in those seven decades.”

“Ah, percentages. The refuge of statistical charlatans,” he snorted.

Now I was offended. “OK,” I retorted to his snort. “Right now, that’s a shortfall of two million residents because we didn’t kept pace with the nation’s population growth.”

“Where would we put them all?” he laughed. “That’s what many legislators would ask.”

“Not only have we lagged the nation in population growth, our per capita personal income grew less rapidly than the U.S. as a whole. The average annual rates of growth were similar, only 0.2% apart. But compounded over 70 years, that’s $6,030 not realized in each Hoosier’s personal income last year alone,” I told him.

Now Knestor smiled. “Legislators will tell you money isn’t everything,” he said.

“Right,” I agreed. “That’s how many politicians deflect an unpleasant truth. They probably don’t comprehend the shrinking role of work in providing income. Nationally, we went from deriving 82% of our personal income from employment to 63%; Indiana similarly slipped from 86% to 64%.

“Now that’s offensive to Hoosier pride,” Knestor said.

“Yup,” I said. “Not only that, both Americans and Hoosiers are more dependent on government for income today than at the beginning of our Golden Era: the 1950s. They’d probably don’t know last year Hoosiers were more dependent than most Americans on government payments for Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation and other transfer payments.

“Where, in 1949 only 4.1% of Indiana’s personal income was from such payments, that figure stood at 19.7% in 2019. That’s a reversal from being under the national figure (5.4%) in 1949, to running higher than the nation (17.1%) in 2019.

“In addition, Hoosiers are now more dependent on dividends, interest, and rent – the income from capital owned. Back in ’49, 10% of our personal income came from those sources. That figure has risen to 16% recently. Similarly, the nation has gone from 12% to 20%.”

“And it’s a small group who are most likely to own stocks, bonds, and property,” Knestor said.

“That’s one source of income inequalities, along with the other major changes, we don’t think about often,” I said.

Knestor agreed. “Let’s just hope our legislators understand Indiana is quite different from what they think they know.”

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

Recommended for you