INDIANAPOLIS – Like the rest of the nation, Indiana is continuing on a trend toward greater diversity as the numbers of Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities are rising at a faster pace than whites.
New census data released last week also show the trend may accelerate in the years to come as the most racially and ethnically diverse age-group – Hoosiers under 5 – grow up.
The new census numbers are snapshot estimates of the population in July 2012, and come a year after the U.S. Census Bureau reported the nation is undergoing a historic shift: Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanic Americans, the nation’s racial and ethnic minorities are growing more rapidly in numbers than whites.
“This shows the changing face of Indiana and America,” said demographer Matt Kinghorn of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University.
Indiana, where 81 percent of the population is white, remains less diverse than the rest of the nation, which is now 63 percent white.
But a closer look at the racial and ethnic makeup of different age groups signals the shift: While 91 percent of Hoosiers over 65 are white, just 70 percent of Hoosier children under 5 are white. And in that 65-and-over group of Hoosiers, less than 2 percent are Hispanic; of Hoosiers that are 5 and under, 11.4 percent are Hispanic.
The contrast between the oldest and the youngest Hoosiers also shows up in race: Just shy of 6 percent of Hoosiers 65 and older are black; just over 11 percent of Hoosiers are 5 are black.
The shift also shows up in the median ages of demographic groups: The median age for whites in Indiana is 40.2 years; it’s 31.3 for blacks, 30.6 for Asians, and 24.5 for Hispanics. For Hoosiers identified as biracial or multiracial, the median age is 15.6 years.
“Indiana is becoming more diverse from the ground up,” Kinghorn said.
That’s even more true in the rest of the nation: For the first time, America’s racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group.
Overall, Indiana’s population growth from 2010 to 2012 was sluggish. It went from from 6,483,802 to 6,537,334, up by only eight-tenths of a percent. Between 2011 and 2012, the population grew only by three-tenths of a percent – the lowest growth rate since the mid-1980s.
Kinghorn attributes that slow growth to the tough economic times in Indiana and the nation after the 2007 recession hit. “It may be the lingering effect of the Great Recession,” Kinghorn said.
But the growth of minority populations in Indiana continues on an upward trend seen for more than a decade. And that’s significant, Kinghorn said, given Indiana’s aging population.
“It’s very important to Indiana, and to the U.S., as we face a tighter labor market as baby boomers head into retirement. Employers would face an even great pinch without the minority populations’ growth.”
Indiana economist Michael Hicks, head of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, said local communities should embrace the increasing diversity, especially that driven by immigration, as good for growth: Existing employers will need to fill the jobs vacated by retiring workers, while potential employers will also need workers.
“For communities all around Indiana, immigration acceptance is important.”
Asians are the fastest growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S., now comprising almost 19 million people. That’s true in Indiana as well. Of the state’s 6.5 million people, only 113,196 are Asian. But that number marks an almost 10 percent growth just from 2010.
In that same two-year period, from 2010 to 2012, the percent of blacks in Indiana rose by less than 2 percent; the percent of Hispanics rose just short of 6 percent; the number of people identified as more than one race rose by just over 7 percent.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.