Population growth slowed in Indiana in 2021

Keywords Census / Population
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Indiana’s population growth in 2021 was the smallest annual increase since 2015, according to analysis released Thursday by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University.

The U.S. Census Bureau said the state added 20,341 residents last year, well below the state’s average over the last decade.

The IBRC said Indiana’s “natural increase,” or the number of births minus the number of deaths, was 690 residents last year, compared with the average natural increase of more than 21,000 per year between 2010 and 2019.

“The primary cause of this slower growth was a sharp increase in the number of deaths in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll,” said Matthew Kinghorn, senior demographer at the Indiana Business Research Center, in written comments. “At the same time, fertility rates in Indiana continued to decline, resulting in only 77,600 births last year—the state’s lowest annual tally on record dating back to the late 1960s.”

The analysis showed the state’s population gains were fueled mostly by a strong net in-migration of more than 19,000 residents.

The IBRC said 58 Indiana counties saw population gains in 2021, led by Boone County at 2.6%, followed by Hamilton and Hendricks counties at 2.2% and Hancock County at 2%.

In terms of numbers, Hamilton County led the way in 2021 by adding 7,782 residents, followed by Hendricks County with an increase of 3,827 residents.

Outside of the Indianapolis metro area, Parke County saw the highest gain at 1.6%, followed by Clarke County at 1.2%, and Perry, Warrick, and Putnam counties at 0.9% each.

Marion County saw the largest population decline last year, at 5,670 residents, or 0.6%.

“This drop stands in stark contrast to the trend over the previous decade when Marion County grew by an average of roughly 7,380 residents per year between 2010 and 2020,” Kinghorn said. “An estimated net out-migration of nearly 9,230 residents was the primary driver of this decline in the state’s most populous county.”

Additionally, the analysis shows 69 counties saw a natural decrease of population in 2021. Lake County saw the biggest decline with 710 more deaths than births. The decreases are due largely to the pandemic, but 41 counties saw a net in-migration to offset the losses resulting in an overall population gain.

You can find more of the analysis here.

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15 thoughts on “Population growth slowed in Indiana in 2021

    1. Indeed. The representation at the Statehouse is unappealing to businesses and many people. Indiana, a home to esteemed facilities of higher learning in Bloomington, West Lafayette, and South Bend, is a place to leave for most graduates. Amazon and high(er) tech for Indiana — no, never, unless more reasonable comprehensive behaviour from the Statehouse occurs. The lowest cost and cheapest means too often does not effect the best long term benefits.

    2. The year 2013 called and wanted your worldview back.

      To think that I used to agree with you and your ilk. I, too, used to be embarrassed about Indiana’s seemingly backward thinking.
      The difference is that I had the humility to recognize that I was wrong.

      If talented people go to places with progressive policies, and urban centers tend to be progressive compared to the rural hinterlands (including Indianapolis compared to the rest of Indiana), why are so many major cities and Marion County the ones losing population?

      The affluent urban-dandy hipster features that made our big-city centers attractive places to live have also turned them into groupthink bubbles. Because everyone either thinks exactly the same or are afraid to step out and call attention to an obvious problem (facing rejection and cancelation and potentially job loss), the same agglomeration of “talent” that worked well for 20 years is now undermining these exact same alpha global power centers. They seem incapable of solving basic issues like “clean and safe” which seemed obvious just 5 years ago.

      Have people forgotten, are they afraid to speak up, or have they just gotten fed up and move to those backwards hinterlands where they can more freely voice their opinions? What about “all of the above”?

    3. Lauren, what are you talking about? Marion County isn’t losing population. It’s the rural counties that are emptying out. New York City experienced the fastest overall population growth out of any city in the country from 2010 to 2020. Your comment has no basis in reality.

    4. Lauren B. If Marion county is suffering, it might because of anti-urban policies in the state legislature. One example would be Indy road Infrastructure and the allocation of the gas tax. Marion county has been underfunded by about 2/3 of what it should be getting for decades. I suspect that if the tax were allocated based on the county it was collected in, we would see drastic changes.

    5. Marion county accounts for 25% of the state GDP. The Indianapolis Metro area accounts for 50% of the states GDP. Has the state ever allocated 25% of anything to Indianapolis? Despite being starved at the state level Indianapolis still manages pretty impressive growth.

      In addition policies that flood the state (and country since there are no controlled borders) with guns does not make it any easier for law enforcement. When you get a mass shooting at a rural car show, ask yourself how having everyone armed is making people safer?

    6. A T:

      Did you even read the article?
      “Marion County saw the largest population decline last year, at 5,670 residents, or 0.6%.”

      We’re not talking about the 2010s. A sizable number of urban centers have recorded population losses. I’ll at least grant that Indy’s isn’t that huge, especially compared to reports from big cities like LA and NYC. But considering it grew over 8% in the previous decade, it’s not exactly a great sign that it’s shrinking. What I said is completely factual if you read the article, which was based on this Census report: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2022/population-estimates-counties-decrease.html

      Paul L:
      I don’t consider myself to be recovering from anything. I’m fully afflicted.

    7. Derek C, then why are utopian states such as Illinois losing people? Democrats control that state top to bottom and they are losing residents. Same can be said of New York and most other democratic-led states.

    8. But the rural areas are shrinking faster. It should shock no one that population dipped in the height of the deadliest pandemic in a century. The long-term trend still favors cities and major metro areas quite heavily; one year doesn’t make a trend and Census estimates are shaky at best. You’re drawing an incorrect conclusion. This isn’t an “urban areas are bad now/values have changed.” It’s a “birth rates are declining, housing is getting expensive due to demand, and the pandemic killed a lot of people” situation.

    9. “Population growth in Indiana continues to be driven by a handful of metropolitan areas. Foremost among these is the 11-county Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metro area, which added roughly 13,100 residents last year, accounting for 64% of Indiana’s net growth in 2021. The Indy metro area is home to nearly 2.13 million people, which represents 31% of the state’s population and ranks as the nation’s 33rd-largest metro area (out of 384 metros).

      Compared to large metro-area peers in neighboring states, the Indy area’s growth rate of 0.6% topped the list, ahead of Columbus, Ohio (0.5%), Cincinnati (0.1%), Louisville (0.0%), Detroit (-0.5%), Cleveland (-0.5%) and Chicago (-1.0%).

      The Fort Wayne area led all Indiana metros with a growth rate of 0.7% to reach a total population of more than 423,000 residents. Other Indiana metro areas to show relatively strong growth include Lafayette-West Lafayette (0.5%), Columbus (0.4%) and Bloomington (0.3%).”


  1. The pro-virus legislature should pay attention to “The primary cause of this slower growth was a sharp increase in the number of deaths in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll”.

    At the same time, immigrants fuel a lot of growth, so think twice before you wish all of the “those” people should go home.

  2. The truth is, Indiana is falling behind and a lot of it has to do with economic and societal shifts as well as our propensity for small-mindedness … not progressive group-think and whatever other anti-liberal, grievance-based nonsense being thrown out here. As has been pointed out, Indianapolis is the economic engine for Indiana, a city that has accomplished some amazing things in the past 40 years thanks to some big thinkers (both Democrats and Republicans). So rather than deriding the city at every turn we should be rooting for its success. Republicans have a stranglehold on this state as evidenced by their super majority in the General Assembly. What they say goes for the entire state, including Indianapolis. So what is their answer for making Indiana and Indianapolis more attractive to people of all ages? More 0.2 percent tax cuts for me and 4 percent cuts for businesses? More low-paying jobs? Weedier parks? More pothole-filled roads? More toll roads and service fees? More classrooms without teachers? What is it about our quality of life that is causing us to lose out to other states? As Hoosiers, how do we address it? Do we even care? What if the answer requires spending more money, changing our thinking or forcing us to be more accepting and willing to work with people from different backgrounds with different worldviews? Are we up to the real challenges of a changing world? Answer some of those questions in a serious, thoughtful way and maybe we’ll have a future after all.