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Immigrants Are Growing Indiana, Says Study

By Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR News | Published on in Business, Education, Local News
Protesters in Kentucky rally for immigration reform in 2006. (Photo: Britt Selvltelle / Flickr)

Immigrants have made up more than a quarter of Indiana’s population growth for the last decade-and-a-half.  That’s the preliminary finding of a new study from Ball State University.  As IPR’s Stephanie Wiechmann reports, the study’s next task is to find out what’s attracting immigrants to Indiana.

According to data from the American Community Survey, immigrants make up about one of every 20 Hoosiers.

Ball State research assistant professor Emily Wornell says rural Indiana counties are seeing the most impact.  Two counties – Cass and Clinton – stopped losing population because of immigration.  And 14 other counties from various parts of the state still lost population overall, but increased their immigration population.

“At this point, immigration really represents probably the best opportunity that these counties have for population growth in the next couple of decades,” Wornell says.  “It’s going to be really important to look at how to keep immigrants there, how to integrate them into communities.”

The study was commissioned by Conexus Indiana, a logistics industry trade council.

“Immigrants in rural areas are more likely to be working in agriculture or meat production and in manufacturing,” says Wornell.  “Immigrants work in manufacturing at greater percentages than the native-born population does in Indiana.”

Wornell has studied immigration trends around the US and says the level of immigration from Latin American countries, especially Mexico, has been essentially flat for years.  That includes illegal immigration.  She says the two largest populations of immigrants in the Hoosier state are Latinos – mostly from Mexico – and those from Asia, mainly from China and India.

The trend recently is for immigrants to head to new destinations – states and communities that haven’t seen a lot of immigration in the last 50 years.

The preliminary study didn’t ask why foreign-born people are settling in the Hoosier state.

“So if we’re seeing these places that the general population is leaving, for whatever reason, there’s something specific that’s attracting immigrants to this place.  I don’t know exactly what that is yet.  If it is jobs, why aren’t those jobs being taken by the general population?”

The second phase of the study, working with researchers at the University of Notre Dame, is being planned.  Wornell says she also wants to look at the economic impact that the children of immigrants have on Indiana.

“The children of immigrants in these communities – are they choosing to stay there or are they leaving Indiana?  Are they leaving the rural places and going to Indianapolis?” Wornell says.  “If they are leaving, is there something specific those places can do to keep them there?”

About 85,000 second-generation Americans are living in Indiana.