Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers, and his views can be followed on a podcast: https://mortonjohn.libsyn.com.
Charlene Curio is a journalism student on her first off-campus interview. “Why do you write this weekly newspaper column?” she asks.
“To introduce Hoosiers to their state,” I respond. “It was an idea of newspaper editors at a dinner in 1990 that became reality the next year.
“As I traveled the state I realized folks everywhere knew little about Indiana’s economy and population. Newspapers then, as today, focused on local sports, crime, and politics. They didn’t provide much information about the state and how what happens in one region compares to other areas.”
“What should Hoosiers know about Indiana they don’t already know?” Charlene asks.
“Where were you born?” I ask her.
“In Indiana,” she replies with neither pride nor embarrassment.
“And that’s the answer 68 percent of the people living in Indiana would give to that same question,” I tell her. “There are only ten states with a higher percent of persons living in their state of birth. The top five are Louisiana (78 percent) followed by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Mississippi. Altogether, 59 percent of Americans live in their state of birth.”
“Who’s on the bottom of that list?” Charlene asks for her notes.
“Nevada (26 percent), Florida and Arizona, the retirement states,” I answer. “Once again, the baby boom reshapes America.”
Now Charlene is in the flow, “Well, if 68 percent of Hoosiers where born in Indiana, where do the rest of the people come from?”
“Mainly,” I say, “from the four states bordering Indiana. Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan together have given us 917,000 of their sons and daughters or 14 percent of our 2017 population according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”
“In total,” I continue, “26 percent of today’s Hoosiers were born in another state and 384,000 (six percent) were foreign-born. Our six percent is well under the 15 percent national figure.”
Charlene takes this all in and then demonstrates her good journalism and arithmetic training: “Where do the people born in Indiana and alive now currently live?”
“We are, as you know, a net loser of people,” I say. “We have 1,750,000 people living in Indiana who were born in another state, but there are 2,040,000, 31 percent of the Hoosier-born, now living in a different state. It’s a net, but natural loss of 290,000 persons.”
“How can you label that a ‘natural loss?’” Charlene protests. “It’s not the 290,000, but the more than two million we should be thinking about. When did they leave? Shortly after birth, after high school, after college, for another job, or for retirement? It makes a difference!”
“We don’t have those data,” I plead. “And what if we did?
"We can’t stop Americans from moving where they will. Plus who knows how to stop their children from seeking something better elsewhere?”
As she leaves, I hear her mumble, “… fuddy-duddy thinking inside a box.”