The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

March 29, 2013

Editorial: Officials should be called upon to address population loss

It seems that folks are still leaving Madison County by moving to find better lives.

But as of late, fewer people are leaving.

To residents still here, that should be a good sign — unless you were hoping your neighbor might move far, far away.

Recently researchers studied net migration estimates by using, in part, U.S. Census figures. Those estimates are determined by figuring the difference between people moving into a county and people moving out. It’s essentially done by taking ZIP codes from IRS tax returns.

Performing the calculations were researchers at the Center for Business and Economic research at Ball State University.

Their just-published report found, for example, that prosperous Hamilton County had a net migration of 7,001 in 2000-2001. So it stayed at No. 1 for net migration numbers. At the bottom was Marion County, which posted negative numbers on net migration.

In 2000-2001, Madison County ranked 87th in net migration among Indiana’s 92 counties by losing 890 residents (we didn’t “lose” them because the IRS knows where they went). But in 2009-2010, Madison County lost 104 residents, boosting its ranking to 59th.

How can residents use this information?

Property and business owners can push their elected officials to renew efforts to bring business and industry — particularly jobs with full-time benefits — to the community. Parents can urge school districts to implement programs that help students prepare for future careers, not low-paying interim work. And voters can push to bring in administrations that understand the importance of amenities, such as parks and recreation, in attracting a larger population and thriving employee base.

These approaches will also work on statewide decisions. According to the report, 39 percent of the Hoosiers who out-migrated (moved from their home county), as they say, went to a different state. However, 61 percent moved to another county. So some counties — Hamilton, Johnson and Hancock, to name a few — are finding the right mix of promising jobs and attractive communities.

Madison County likely won’t sink back to 87th. But wouldn’t it be nice to see it reach higher than 59th?

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