According to the U. S. Census Bureau, 34 of Indiana’s 92 counties (37 percent) gained population between 2010 and 2015. That means 58 (63 percent) of our counties lost or had no change in population.
Since this was competently discussed in the press by Matt Kinghorn of the IU Indiana Business Research Center, I look to the township data for a column that goes deeper into the data.
Wrong turn. The first thing I do is count up all the townships that added population (388) and those that lost population (609), plus those unchanged from 2010 (12).
Then I should have quit. That sum is 1,009, and, as every Hoosier fourth-grader knows in this state of exemplary education, there are 1,008 townships in Indiana. I double check my count. Again it’s 1,009. Something is amiss.
“Let it be, don’t mention it,” Myrtle, my muse tells me, appearing without warning. “No one will notice another township; we have so many.”
I can’t do that, despite Myrtle’s truth. I press on only to spot something strange. In 43 of our 92 counties, every township declined in population. On the other side, 23 counties had not a single township declining; winners all.
That’s 66 counties growing or declining exclusively. With the help of my calculator, I figure out that means we had only 26 counties with some townships growing while others declined.
Uniformity of growth or decline is not what I think would be the case. So I go back, way back, to the method by which the township estimates are made by the Census Bureau.
“Stop!” Myrtle commands. “No one cares how they get the numbers. Just report what the numbers say. Don’t pretend you can read a methodology statement from the professionals in Washington who write that stuff.”
“That’s insulting,” I tell her, but to myself I recognize her reality. Congress and large organizations who use these data just want the numbers without the mumbo-jumbo of how they are produced.
“It’s important,” I tell her as I break out of my funk. “The Congress and other government units allocate billions of dollars according to these estimates. Businesses and not-for-profit agencies plan their marketing and service activities on these numbers. But no one wants to pay the taxes needed to make them better.”
“What wrong with the numbers?” Myrtle asks.
“For example,” I say, “2015 township population estimates are based on housing counts for 2015. Then Census multiplies that number of housing units first by that township’s 2010 occupancy rate and then by the number of persons per household in 2010. After that, they adjust (force) the township totals to equal the predetermined county totals.”
“So the township data are a controlled melding of old and new numbers,” she says. “Sounds OK to me.”
“We live in a changing world,” I protest. “I won’t foist these weak data on my readers.”