Statistics track Hoosiers on the move

By Morton Marcus

“Workers,” says the human resources manager.

“Customers,” says the small business owner.

“Young families,” says the home builder.

“Students,” says the school superintendent.

“We’ll get what you need,” says Monique representing ManMover, the population recruiting company.

“We find the communities that are attracting the people you need. Then we examine what they have done to get those people.”

The next day I get the call.

“Hi, it’s Monique,” she says. “Got a job for you: tell me which Indiana counties are best at attracting different types of people. Send me what you can in the next 24 hours.”

I know a consulting scam when I hear one, but I need the work. “It’s done,” I say and email this information to her:

According to the American Community Survey five-year report for 2015, the largest age group of in-migrants (people who crossed a county, state or international border to live in Indiana) was those ages 18 to 24.

We think of these people as predominantly college students and that is true for certain counties, including Knox, Vigo, Grant, Vanderburgh and St. Joseph. But young people who don’t go to college also move for jobs and/or to establish their own households in counties such as Steuben, Spencer and Posey.

In all, 18- to 24-year-olds equaled 30 percent or more of migrants in 11 Indiana counties. In total, 34 Hoosier counties had 18- to 24-year-olds as the largest cohort of in-migrants. Statewide, this age group equaled 27.4 percent of in-migrants. This fact is a tribute to our colleges and universities. But, do they satisfy our criteria for county economic growth?

In contrast, only three counties (Perry, Parke and Dearborn) saw 30 percent or more of their in-migrants in the next age group of 25 to 34. Yes, this age group was the leading cohort of in-migrants in 43 of our 92 counties, but accounted for just 21.8 percent of our in-migrants.

Isn’t this the population concerned Hoosiers seek as the target population for growth?

In only Brown and Fayette counties were 35- to 44-year-olds the leading in-migrant cohort. In 31 counties, this cohort accounted for less than 10 percent of the in-migrant population.

Across the state they represented 11.1 percent of in-migrants. What is the economic impact of this group compared to younger households? Should they be our target?

Extend those same questions to 45- to 54-year-olds (8.6 percent of in-migrants statewide) and 55- to 64-year-olds (6.2 percent). Finally, there are advocates for the 65 and older cohort who accounted for just 5.9 percent of in-migrants.

It’s doubtful Monique will answer the questions posed. But she has sensational stories to tell about the preferences of the millennial avant-garde, projecting anecdotal evidence as the basis for investment by communities of all sizes.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to letters@daily