IBJOpinion

MARCUS: Fewer Hoosier children means less retail

Morton Marcus
March 12, 2011
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Morton Marcus

We were prepared for Indiana’s mediocre results from the 2010 census. Our population growth (6.6 percent) over the decade 2000 to 2010 ranked 31st in the nation. We could celebrate being not too far from the top of the bottom half of the states.

What brought joy to the Hoosier hearth was the news that we topped Wisconsin’s 6.0-percent growth, Illinois’ 3.3, Ohio’s 1.6, and pitiful Michigan’s decline (-0.6 percent). Doing better than one’s poor neighbors stands as a weak triumph.

If anything rattled our teeth, it was the concentration of growth in Marion and four adjacent counties (Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson and Hancock). These five counties alone captured more than 53 percent of the state’s growth. Of the remaining 87 counties, 29 lost population. The biggest losers in number of people were Grant (Marion), Howard (Kokomo), Wayne (Richmond), Wabash (Wabash) and Cass (Logansport) counties. Blackford County (Hartford City), at -9.1 percent, had the largest decline relative to the state.

Relative growth (or decline) does matter. What’s good for the Indianapolis metropolitan area is now better than before for all of Indiana. As the Indianapolis metro area approaches 26 percent of the state’s population, who is losing out? Even though Lake County gained 11,400 people and Vanderburgh gained 7,800, neither kept pace with the state’s growth rate. These two counties, along with Madison, Delaware, LaPorte and Vigo, emerged from the last decade as relative losers in the population derby.

After the Legislature completes redistricting next month, more members of the Indiana General Assembly than before will have the Indianapolis area on their minds. When the state allocates goodies according to population, the outlands will get a lesser share. Business activity, particularly health and financial services, will concentrate still more where people are most numerous.

Hidden in all these data lies a truth that may be of great significance. From 2000 to 2010, the adult population of the state grew faster (8.2 percent) than the population under age 18 (2.2 percent). Indiana added 369,400 adults, compared with just 33,900 children, a ratio of nearly 11 to 1. This imbalance was hardly uniform, but its consequences are important for all of us.

When more data are released, we’ll know the full story, but we can already identify important patterns. In only 24 of our 92 counties did both the adult and child populations increase. For example, Clark County added 13,000 people, of whom 11,000 were adults and just 2,000 were children. In 68 counties, however, the number of children declined.

Children, as any parent will attest, are the drivers of our economy. They cause the washing machine and dryer to be bought. They necessitate the larger, safer automobile. Simply put, children are the creators of debt and increased consumption spending.

Fewer children reduce retail trade. Schools acquire empty rooms and playgrounds see less Little League ball played. Neighbors are less inclined to know one another in the absence of children. Communities, as we have known them, change. Some crumble, others manage an awkward transformation to residential areas with limited liveliness.

The economic prospects of communities with fewer children are poor. Where youth initiates change, adults often succumb to the temptations of the familiar. It is difficult to convince town elders that more opportunities for social engagement are necessary to sustain commercial vitality. Carmel, with its new theaters and concert facilities, may be the best example in Indiana of a smaller city’s becoming a place for adults.•

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Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

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  1. If what you stated is true, then this article is entirely inaccurate. "State sells bonds" is same as "State borrows money". Supposedly the company will "pay for them". But since we are paying the company, we are still paying for this road with borrowed money, even though the state has $2 billion in the bank.

  2. Andrew hit the nail on the head. AMTRAK provides terrible service and that is why the state has found a contractor to improve the service. More trips, on-time performance, better times, cleanliness and adequate or better restrooms. WI-FI and food service will also be provided. Transit from outlying areas will also be provided. I wouldn't take it the way it is but with the above services and marketing of the service,ridership will improve and more folks will explore Indy and may even want to move here.

  3. They could take the property using eminent domain and save money by not paying the church or building a soccer field and a new driveway. Ctrwd has monthly meetings open to all customers of the district. The meetings are listed and if the customers really cared that much they would show. Ctrwd works hard in every way they can to make sure the customer is put first. Overflows damage the surrounding environment and cost a lot of money every year. There have been many upgrades done through the years to help not send flow to Carmel. Even with the upgrades ctrwd cannot always keep up. I understand how a storage tank could be an eye sore, but has anyone thought to look at other lift stations or storage tanks. Most lift stations are right in the middle of neighborhoods. Some close to schools and soccer fields, and some right in back yards, or at least next to a back yard. We all have to work together to come up with a proper solution. The proposed solution by ctrwd is the best one offered so far.

  4. Fox has comments from several people that seem to have some inside information. I would refer to their website. Changed my whole opionion of this story.

  5. This place is great! I'm piggy backing and saying the Cobb salad is great. But the ribs are awesome. $6.49 for ribs and 2 sides?! They're delicious. If you work downtown, head over there.

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