Census data helps the State and communities take its temperature, and make some assumptions about its overall health.
In 1902, the Census Bureau was formed for the purpose of counting the number of people in the United States. The data collected would become valuable for important tasks like allocating federal funds each year and determining the seats of the U.S. House of Representatives to the states based on their population. The data is to be collected every 10 years.
Throughout the other years, the bureau conducts dozens of other censuses and surveys, including the American Community Survey, the U.S. Economic Census, and the Current Population Survey. The various censuses and surveys conducted by the bureau today help allocate over $400 billion in federal funds every year and help states, local communities, and businesses make informed decisions.
The bureau has recently released its 2015 population estimates. Indiana's growth remains slow, with more than half of Indiana counties losing population. Overall, Indiana has grown at about 2% since the last decennial census in 2010. But Indiana's growth outpaces our neighbors in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. The Midwest is growing at only .3%.
Most growth in Indiana has been in the center of the State, with four of the five fastest growing counties surrounding Indianapolis. Generally, those suburbs outside of metro areas have experienced the most gains while rural counties have experienced the most loses.
In our area, the St. Joseph and Elkhart county populations have increased again, both amongst the faster growing counties outside of the center of the State. In 58 of Indiana's 92 counties, the population shrunk or stayed flat. In St. Joseph County, we’re bucking a trend that included decades of population stagnation.
Population growth is at the center of the Regional Cities mission. Experts had predicted slow to no growth for our area, but Regional Cities projects are intended to help buck that trend. We’re off to a good start, but it’s a little early to celebrate our success.
A closer look at South Bend estimates shows growth for the fourth straight year, reversing a trend of population decline that lasted several decades. In all, population has grown by only 719, with the trend being what should excite us most, even more than the number.
Population growth will be critical in the years to come to help fill new housing inventory currently under construction. Though single family residential growth has remained slow, several hundred residential units set to come on-line in the next few years in the downtowns of South Bend and Mishawaka and on Mishawaka’s north side.
The people of our region play an important role in continuing this recent growth trend. Reach out to those friends and family that have left the area and tell them about all that has changed since they left. Or reach out to those former classmates or associates that have yet to experience our area and invite them for a visit.
While they’re here, be our chief salesperson. Experience all that the region has to offer, visiting a wide swath of opportunities from Lake Michigan to Shipshewana, and all points in between. Take them on a walk on one of our beautiful trails and visit that hot spot that you’ve come to love.
Remind them about how affordable it is to live here and tell them how short your daily commute is.
We must build upon our moderate growth, complete key projects that will improve the quality of place, and attract young people to our region. Our future depends on it.