IBJOpinion

MARCUS: There is no 'rural revival' in Indiana

Morton Marcus
June 19, 2010
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Morton Marcus

The now famous housing bubble has been blamed for many of our nation’s problems. In truth, it is the opposite. The massive private debt, including mortgage debt, was made possible by lax lending practices. This facilitated the housing boom.

It was not the desires of individuals to own new homes that caused Congress to relax regulation of financial markets and to encourage more lending for housing. It was the financial and housing lobbies that pressed for policies that enriched their industries.

One consequence of all the housing construction between 2000 and 2008 is a continuation, perhaps intensification, of a dual trend: People are moving to metropolitan areas faster than to other areas of Indiana, while within metro areas they are moving away from the established central cities.

Indiana has 14 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), excluding the Indiana portions of the Cincinnati and Louisville areas. These 14 areas grew 6.4 percent in population between 2000 and 2008. At the same time, the whole state grew 4.9 percent. The 25 Indiana “micropolitan” areas (single counties outside metro areas with populations ranging from Scott’s 23,000 to Kosciusko’s 76,000) showed no growth. The rural counties that were neither in metro- nor micropolitan areas grew only 1.3 percent. This is hardly the much-heralded “rural renaissance” advanced by some analysts.

Now let’s look at the central cities of these areas. Some MSAs have two or more central cities (such as South Bend-Mishawaka), but most have only one. In the aggregate, these 14 metro areas grew 6.4 percent, with their central cities growing only 0.4 percent. The balance of those metro areas (smaller cities and towns plus suburban regions) grew 12 percent.

Indianapolis-Carmel and Elkhart-Goshen each grew 3.6 percent, while their outlying areas advanced 24 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Only four metro areas lost population; the Terre Haute MSA was one of these, but, against the general trend, its population loss was entirely outside its central city.  

Together, the 25 micropolitan areas had no growth in population and their central cities declined 1.5 percent, while the balance of those counties grew 0.7 percent. Within this group, however, there were considerable differences. Jasper and Plymouth each grew faster than the balance of their growing counties. Richmond, Wabash and Connersville each declined faster than the rest of their respective declining counties.

What are these data telling us? Hoosiers want to live in metropolitan areas, but they don’t want to be in the central cities of those areas. They want the smaller cities and towns of those metro areas, many of which offer only the disconnected lifestyle of suburbia with the liabilities of large lawns and total dependence on the automobile. Hoosiers seem to reject as well the older, smaller towns that form the cores of micropolitan areas.

The housing boom, focused on owner-occupied housing, encouraged already ongoing urban sprawl. The question for this generation is: “Will we restructure our thinking about the location of housing in light of the economic, environmental and energy problems we now face?”

The solutions are in the hands of those who control land use, but they will not come forth until citizens rethink how we live.•

__________

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. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

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