BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana added 20,341 residents in 2021 to reach a total population of nearly 6.81 million, according to the latest population estimates from the US Census Bureau.
Analysis by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University Kelley School of Business says that’s Indiana’s smallest annual increase since 2015 and well below the state’s average annual gain of nearly 30,200 people in the previous decade.
“The main cause of this slower growth was a sharp increase in the number of deaths in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll,” said Matthew Kinghorn, senior demographer at the Indiana Business Research Center. “At the same time, fertility rates in Indiana have continued to decline, resulting in just 77,600 births last year – the lowest annual state tally on record since the late 1960s.”
Because of these developments, Indiana’s so-called natural population increase—or the number of births minus the number of deaths—was only 690 in 2021.
To put that number into perspective, Indiana experienced an average natural increase of about 21,150 people per year between 2010 and 2019. Meanwhile, half of all states experienced a natural decrease in 2021, which means that deaths have exceeded births.
With the state’s natural increase essentially flat, Indiana’s population gains were fueled almost entirely by strong net immigration of more than 19,000 in 2021.
Indiana’s fastest growing counties continue to be suburban communities within the Indianapolis metropolitan area. Boone County led the way with a population gain of 2.6% in 2021, followed by Hamilton (2.2%), Hendricks (2.2%) and Hancock (2.0%) counties.
The fastest growing counties outside the Indianapolis area were Parke (1.6% growth), Clarke (1.2%), Perry (0.9%), Warrick (0.9%) and Putnam (0.9%).
In terms of largest numerical gains, Hamilton County again set the standard in 2021 by adding 7,782 residents – a level of growth more than twice the increase of 3,827 residents in second-placed Hendricks County. Other top earners included Allen (2,716), Johnson (2,118) and Boone (1,883) counties.
A total of 58 of Indiana’s 92 counties posted a population gain in 2021.
Marion County saw the largest population decline in the state last year with a loss of nearly 5,670 residents, a decrease of 0.6%.
“This decline is in stark contrast to the trend of the previous decade, when Marion County grew by an average of approximately 7,380 residents per year between 2010 and 2020,” Kinghorn said. “An estimated net emigration of nearly 9,230 was the primary driver of this decline in the state’s most populous county.”
St. Joseph County recorded the second largest drop in the state with 337 residents, while Jackson County followed closely with a loss of 306 residents. In terms of rate of decline, Pulaski County had the largest decline in the state last year at 1.2%, followed by counties Jay (-1.0%), Knox (-0 .8%) and Pike (-0.7%).
Drivers of Change in Indiana Counties
Largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 69 counties in Indiana – 75% of all counties in the state – saw a natural decline in population in 2021. In terms of absolute numbers, the county de Lake fared worse on this measure, with 710 more deaths than births last year. Delaware, Madison, Porter and LaPorte counties also saw a natural decrease of 300 or more residents in 2021.
Of the 69 counties with natural decline, 41 had net immigration that was strong enough to overcome these losses and result in an overall population gain.
Marion County had the largest natural increase in the state with 3,530 residents, followed by Hamilton (1,182), Allen (1,101) and Elkhart (928) counties.
Meanwhile, 68 counties showed net in-migration of residents in 2021, with faster-growing suburban Indy-area counties claiming the top five spots in this measure.
Indiana’s Metropolitan Magnets
Indiana’s population growth continues to be driven by a handful of metropolitan areas. Chief among these is the 11-county Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metro area, which added about 13,100 residents last year, accounting for 64% of Indiana’s net growth in 2021. The Indy metro area is home to nearly 2.13 million people, representing 31% of the state’s population and ranking as the 33rd largest metropolitan area in the nation (out of 384 metros).
Compared to its major metropolitan counterparts in neighboring states, Indy’s growth rate of 0.6% tops the list, ahead of Columbus, Ohio (0.5%), Cincinnati (0.1% ), Louisville (0.0%), Detroit (-0.5%), Cleveland (-0.5%) and Chicago (-1.0%).
The Fort Wayne area led all Indiana metros with a growth rate of 0.7% to a total population of over 423,000. Other Indiana metro areas to show relatively strong growth include Lafayette-West Lafayette (0.5%), Columbus (0.4%) and Bloomington (0.3%).
Metro Chicago’s Gary Division (Lake, Porter, Jasper and Newton counties) grew 0.2% last year and is the second-largest area in the state with 719,700 residents.
For more information on these estimates, visit Indiana Demographics STATS. The Indiana Business Research Center is part of a national network of state data centers and acts as the official representative of the State of Indiana to the Census Bureau on questions relating to the census and population estimates. He receives support from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development for this work, including award-winning websites Hoosiers by the numbers and Indiana STATS.