Recession temporarily slows suburban migration

June 23, 2010

Suburban towns such as Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville and Greenwood have led Indiana’s population growth for the last decade. But according to analysis from the Indiana Business Research Center, the recession has shifted migration trends toward Indiana’s largest cities.

Indianapolis saw greater-than-average population changes last year. The city added 6,854 residents—three times its average annual growth from 2000 to 2008. On the other hand, Fishers' population grew by just 2,399 residents, well below its average annual 3,701 gain. Noblesville and Greenwood's growth also slowed.

“These shifting trends reflect the slowdown in migration seen in Indiana and much of the nation due to the recession,” wrote Matt Kinghorn, an economic analyst with the center—part of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. “Factors such as the housing market slump and employment insecurity result in fewer people moving from central cities to suburban areas. The tough employment climate means that fewer people are relocating for new jobs. As a result, many of Indiana’s larger cities have held on to more of their residents over this period.”

Population growth is, broadly, an equation that starts with births, then factors in deaths and migration, Kinghorn said in a telephone interview. Indianapolis is the nation’s 14th-largest city, ranking just behind Jacksonville, Fla. and ahead of Austin, Texas. Indianapolis has had a 3.3-percent population growth since 2000, thanks mostly to births, but has been a net migration loser. The recession’s twin drags on employment and housing have slowed the trend.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the IBRC found that Fishers nearly doubled its population from 2000 to 2009, with a gain of 32,884 residents, or 86.2 percent. Over the same time period, Noblesville’s population increased 44.8 percent, Greenwood’s grew 32.5 percent and Carmel’s went up 30.5 percent. During the decade, all nine Hoosier cities or towns with the largest population gains were located in Indianapolis' suburbs: in Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson counties. But suburban growth has slowed as the recession has taken hold.

In the next few years, as the recession abates and the housing and construction industries stabilize, Kinghorn said he expects to see suburban growth trends to normalize.

Anderson was among the state's largest cities with population losses, recording a drop of 4.2 percent since 2000.


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