Minority population shows gains

The changes in Johnson County have become more visible.

As more immigrants from Burmese and Sikh cultures move here, they bring their food, art and culture with them. More people of color have become part of the community.

Hospitals, law enforcement and libraries have special programs to help communicate with people who don’t speak English.

Johnson County is becoming a more diverse place, according to demographic estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The county is still overwhelmingly white — representing more than 93 percent of the population. But the county’s Hispanic, black and Asian populations have all seen growth, albeit incrementally, during the past four years.

“Increase of diversity is one of the major demographic stories in Indiana and around the country. But it’s something that we’ve seen growing for a while now, so this isn’t surprising,” said Matthew Kinghorn, a demographer for the Indiana Business Research Center.

The population estimates are released every year, allowing the Census Bureau to examine age, sex, race and Hispanic origin nationally, as well as in all states and counties. Though these are only estimates, it allows government leaders and communities to see the changes that have taken place since the last official Census in 2010, and July 1, 2014.

The trend toward diversity mirrors population changes at the state and national levels. Throughout the U.S., minority groups made up 37.9 percent. While Indiana’s population is becoming more varied, it remains about 84 percent white.

“It’s always a good reminder how the face of Indiana and the face of the country is always changing,” Kinghorn said. “It’s important to look at these on an annual basis, just to see if there have been any major shifts or trends that we’ve seen.”

Among central Indiana counties, only Marion, Hendricks and Hamilton counties have a more mixed population than Johnson County.

The region is home to much of Indiana’s manufacturing and economic activity, Kinghorn said. As such, it is a magnet for new residents.

“Central Indiana in general is the engine of population growth in the state. It stands to reason that as the most dynamic region in the state, it’ll attract a greater diversity of residents,” he said.

Johnson County’s economic growth has been a significant engine in the population change. When 10 new companies opened or expanded last year, new workers came in to fill the created jobs.

More than 4,600 people moved here between 2010 and 2014. A vast majority of those — 3,799 — came from elsewhere in Indiana or the U.S. The county also attracted 869 people from other countries.

Still Johnson County, and Indiana in general, is not becoming more diverse by attracting new residents to the area. The county had more births than deaths from 2010 to 2014, which helped expand the overall population.

The population estimates reveal that the most diverse group is the area’s youngest residents. The older, more homogenous population will give way to this younger, more varied generation.

“We’re getting more diverse from the ground up,” Kinghorn said. “Even if we didn’t see anyone else move here to the state, we’d be getting more diverse over time.”

The county’s black population made the most significant gains in the past four years, nearly doubling as a percentage of the total population since 2010.

The Asian population, driven by an increase in Sikh and Burmese groups immigrating to the area, also has grown. More than 800 new residents fall into that category, signifying a growth of 29 percent since the last Census.

Johnson County’s white segment is also greater than it was during the 2010. But it’s portion of the entire population expanded just 5 percent.

“It’s good for planning, providing services if necessary,” Kinghorn said. “For business leaders, it helps to understand that their customer base is always changing and to be ready to serve the whole population to tap into those growing groups.”

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.