As part of the Thriving Communities, Thriving State project, the Institute created a Community Vitality Index by modifying an index created by The New York Times. Our version of the index is comprised of each Indiana county's ratio of estimated housing costs to median household income, education attainment, unemployment rate, disability benefits use rate, life expectancy, and obesity.
Key findings include:
Mid-sized counties collectively perform exceedingly well on these measures relative to rural and urban communities.
Educational attainment in rural areas lags behind urban and mid-sized communities, considerably contributing to greater economic challenges.
Residents of urban areas spend substantially more of their incomes on housing than rural or mid-sized counties.
Communities adjacent to urban areas; university centers; and areas with robust, specialized manufacturing industries appear to be faring well.
Areas that lost considerable employment with the decline of the manufacturing sector and rural counties not proximate to major metropolitan areas experience the greatest degree of challenges.
Indiana’s larger regional centers (Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and South Bend) anchor thriving regions that benefit surrounding counties and the state as a whole.
Regions historically centered on manufacturing and regions with their central city located outside the state fare less well than other regions.