The candidates and their campaign advisers undoubtedly are stoking the anti-immigration fires because it’s proven effective in past practice or in polling. But if they want Indiana to grow and prosper, they should back off the fear-mongering. A new report from the Indiana Business Research Center suggests Indiana’s workforce will grow by only 34,000 between 2020 and 2050. The state’s economic future depends on its ability to attract young workers, including legal immigrants.
Matt Kinghorn, senior demographic analyst for the research center, notes the state’s labor force will record a “relatively healthy gain of 120,000 workers between 2010 and 2020” but will likely contract over the next decade as more baby boomers retire. Lower fertility rates affect the labor pool, as well. If rates had held steady to those recorded before the Great Recession, Indiana would see 70,000 more births than are expected in that decade-long span.
Migration is another factor, of course. Indiana saw its population and labor force declining through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, but the trend was reversed with gains in net migration between 1990 and 2010. Hispanic residents moving into the state were responsible for 77 percent of the gain, according to data from the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin.