IBJOpinion

MARCUS: Fewer Hoosier children means less retail

Morton Marcus
March 12, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
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.•

__________

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

ADVERTISEMENT