Wednesday, January 20, 2016

People leaving Indiana? Mike, say it isn't so.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 1:32 PM

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I was wowed by Governor Pence's State of the State talk; I had no idea everything was so wonderful in the Hoosier Holyland. Then, imagine my surprise when the news hit: Indiana suffers from more people moving out than moving in.

Out-migration is like hair loss. People don't like to talk about it. Certainly governors wouldn't recognize that, when people are free to move from state to state, certain states are less attractive to movers than other states. Hoosiers seem to live in one of those less attractive states. But don't tell anyone lest you be invited to leave yourself.

Of course, if you follow the reports of the U.S. Census Bureau, you know something like this has been going on for some time. Yet, what loyal Hoosier would believe anything coming from Washington, the center of malevolent statistical manipulation?

Relax. These data come from a respected private sector source: Atlas Van Lines, the folks who transported furniture, appliances and stuff for 77,700 households across state lines in 2015.

Note: these were households, not persons as stated by an internet source (rag?) called Business Insider. The number of persons involved is unknown.

My imagination tells me that people who use professional movers like Atlas are older and wealthier than the foot-loose Millennials our cities want to attract with bike paths, trolley cars, quaint, if decayed, Victorian homes, and other amenities of a century ago. Hence, these data could be a vast understatement of the net outbound migration.

Atlas' data tell us that Indiana ranked sixth in the nation with nearly 60 percent of its traffic flowing out of our state versus 40 percent inbound. People are choosing better opportunities elsewhere or moving to those greener pastures where their children have already gone.

Die-hards will counter: "Let 'em go. We don't need 'em, we don't want 'em. They only make the streets more crowded if they stay."

However, those who leave take with them their earning power, savings, pensions, purchasing power, and children. This weakens our state's economy and makes us poorer in the long run.

The ugly fact is: 39 of Indiana's counties in 2010 were below their peak populations of the last century. Lake County's population was 50,248 (nine percent) lower than its 1970 peak. Other major deficits, ranging from 10,000 to 14,000 persons, were in Grant, Delaware, Vermillion, Sullivan and Wayne counties. The sum of all 39 deficits was 205,400 persons.

With populations short of their historic peaks, the costs of infrastructure maintenance and repair are spread over fewer people and businesses. Often there are no advantages of smaller populations for schools, shops, hospitals, and other vital services.

Population decline, where over-crowding never existed, is not a graceful process; it stirs no pride, gives little joy and certainly erodes hope. Perhaps we could help the many refugees waiting with hope for a new start in life.

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Morton Marcus

Morton Marcus

Mr. Marcus is an economist, writer, and speaker who may be reached at

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