The Herald Bulletin
---- — Last week, we started looking at the numbers for the county and putting them in perspective by examining variables related to employment and the labor force. This week, we will look at variables related to the population (demographics and households), and welfare.
Population, Demographics, and Households
The population for the county has not changed much in recent years. The population for the city has decreased, but as many have left the city they have chosen to move to other locations within the county and thus those numbers have stayed relatively steady.
While the population number has not changed much over the past several censuses, the demographics of those living in the area have changed. According to the Census Bureau, 16.3 percent of the county is above 65 years of age, compared to 13.6 percent for the state. Residents over the age of 25 that have a bachelor’s degree or higher is 16.8 percent, compared to 22.7 percent for the state’s average, and the median household income for the county is $4,358 below the average for the state. With less money to spend, the retail sales per capita are almost $3,000 below the state average of $12,408. In short, the county has an older population with less education, less income, and less spending power than most of the other counties in the state.
Changes in the number of food stamp recipients and the dollar amount of food stamp payments are one indicator of economic distress in a community. The number of food stamp recipients and the corresponding amount of food stamps issued continued to climb during 2013 in Madison County. The number of food stamp recipients increased to over 23,000 individuals (about 17.5 percent of the population in the county; 19 percent of the households) during the January to August time period and the dollar amount distributed increased by almost 3 percent. To put that in perspective, by doubling the number of recipients over the course of a decade, there are 27 counties in Indiana that have fewer people living in them than what we have on food stamps in Madison County. The dollar amount of the program has tripled over that time and is now more than $3 million monthly.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 numbers — the last year for which data is available, the poverty rate for Madison County is 18.9 percent — which is higher than every neighboring county with the exception of Delaware, and above the national average of fifteen percent. The percentage of children living in poverty is 29.4 percent (increasing each and every year) compared to 22.6 percent for Indiana and 22.5 percent for the U.S.
Lastly, just to add salt to the wound, even though the county is the 13th largest in the state in terms of population, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, it is eighth in number of suicides.
Next week, education and housing will be examined.
Emmett Dulaney’s column appears Tuesdays.