Marcus: How far will Hoosiers go to make a living?


Morton Marcus

Indiana’s roads, those pitted patches of pavement, are critical to our economy. They get workers to their places of work and home again to their places of residence. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports earnings by the county of work and the county of residence. Our highways enable commuting between St. Joseph and Elkhart County or Hancock and Henry.

In 2022, Hoosier workers brought $92 billion home from work in another county or state. That was 36% of the total earnings of workers residing in Indiana.

Yes, I hear you, Nathan Nitpicker. That statement is an exaggeration. Some people worked at home and a part of that sum involved the internet rather than the highways some of the time.

Yes, Natalie, 9% of that $92 billion came from out-of-state.

Right, Nathan, just 3% of the earnings generated in Indiana went out-of-state.

Enough! These Nitpickers drive me mad.

What counts is that in 2022, only 19 Indiana counties were net exporters of earnings, with the other 73 net importers of earnings.

Nathan wants to know which of our 92 counties is the greatest Exporter of earnings. Natalie wants him to clarify that question.

The answer for Nathan is no surprise: Marion County exported nearly $29 billion in 2022 or 43% of the earnings generated there. But if Natalie wants to know which county exported the greatest portion of the earnings generated in that county, then it’s Martin County with 78% exported. Can you say Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane?

In all, four more counties exported more than 50% of their generated earnings. These were Spencer, Vermillion, Gibson and Ripley.

Before the Nitpickers get a chance, I’ll say Hamilton was the greatest dollar Importer ($17.6 billion), with the greatest percentage of imported earning (78%) being found in Spencer County. In total, 45 Indiana counties imported more than half of the earnings they received.

In the past ten years, 52 Indiana counties have become more dependent on imported earnings. If this is what we want, then get out there to widen those highways, speed up that internet service.

“Leave it alone, let the market work,” I hear on my right. The voice on my left say, “The state should balance economic opportunities rather than concentrating them in a few places.”

“Save the smaller communities,” urges one radical gubernatorial candidate who claims to be a conservative. “Economies of scale need to be respected,” is the unspoken message of an imperious radical developer.

“No more!” cries the crowd over there. “Grow or die!” shout others across the way.

“We, for a fee, can your saviors be,” declare consultants from Algorithmic Arrogance.

The Economic Development Travel Agency recommends places that changed everything to keep the existing balance.

But why discuss difficult and serious stuff when we’ve got the Bowl, the Basket and the General Assembly to entertain us?

Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at [email protected]. Follow him and John Guy on Who Gets What at