Morton Marcus: Where Indiana can poach well-educated workers

Morton Marcus

As you probably heard, Indiana is looking for people.

Not just any kind of people, but the right kind of people. Educated, skilled, mobile folks. We may not really know what they want, but maybe we could figure out how to find them.

From what we believe to be true, educated and skilled people are highly mobile, moving to the growing places where there are opportunities. Remember, our efforts must be “data driven” to satisfy what the state is asking of regions seeking part of that tempting half-billion-dollar bucket called READI. This suggests we look where large numbers of people have been moving from other states.

Sadly, we’ll have to wait for the 2020 Census in its full, great detail, state-by-state, even metro area-by-metro area. That’s two, maybe three, years away. But we do have the 2019 American Community Survey, which might be a good proxy for our purposes.

Nationally, 7.4 million Americans moved from one state to another in 2018 and 2019. As you expected, Florida, Texas and California pulled in the most people, each over 480,000 people. (Indiana attracted 151,400).

Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska had the highest percentages of their 2019 populations from other states, but the numbers of people were low. You don’t go hunting where the herd is small.

Yet there is another consideration. The Hoosier state drew over 150,000 to our state, but we realized a net gain of only 9,000, as 141,000 people left this “State That Works.” Perhaps we need to consider those states that had major net inflows of interstate movers, plus those states with major outflows from Indiana.

Four states (New York, California, Illinois and New Jersey) had the greatest net inflow of interstate movers, ranging from 185,000 to 80,000. Add to those, four states with major outflows from Indiana: Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan, ranging from 18,000 to 11,000.

(Illinois and Indiana exchanged a total of 53,000 residents with two-thirds of those people coming to the Hoosier state. Illinois led all states sending residents to Indiana and was second only to Florida in receiving Hoosiers.

Florida and Texas are excluded from consideration because both states had net outflows of movers despite receiving much attention for their inflows of retired people. Maryland is a good candidate to replace Florida.)

So there we have it: the data drives us to understand Indiana’s regions should be looking to lasso those educated, skilled people and their families from our four surrounding states and four coastal states.

What will entice these prize persons? That’s the half-billion-dollar question. It might be superior education from pre-K through 12th grade. Or upgraded housing that replaces rundown dwellings. Certainly, high-speed internet everywhere. And particularly, employers and legislators who have emerged from the mid-20th century.

Morton Marcus is an economist. You can contact him at [email protected]. You also can follow his and those of John Guy on “Who Gets What?” wherever podcasts are available. 

Send comments to [email protected].