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The economic recession that occurred in our nation over the course of the 2008-2009 period wreaked havoc in many communities across the United States. Not only did the housing market tumble, but the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and job creation stopped dead in its tracks. Adding further pain was the decline in household income and the uptick in poverty levels for increasing numbers of families. Like most states, the Great Recession hit was a painful period for many Hoosier families and communities.
Over the course of 2015 and 2016, the social and economic conditions of the state have been showing steady improvement. Housing construction and home sales are recovering. The rate of unemployment is falling, job expansion is on the rise, poverty is slowly declining and population growth has returned to the state. Despite the signs that our state and nation have finally turned the corner with regard to the damaging effects of the Great Recession, the fact remains that major challenges persist for our state, especially for its rural counties and communities. With the exception of rural counties that are located in close proximity to most metropolitan areas, many rural areas are experiencing population decline, job losses in manufacturing and agriculture (the traditional drivers of the economy of these areas), limited improvements in the human capital credentials of the adult workforce, persistence of high rates of adult and child poverty and more. An added challenge are the limits on local government investments in infrastructure, broadband, housing, community facilities, public education and more as a result of an inadequate revenue base or statutory restrictions on revenue growth.
Purdue’s Socioeconomic and Fiscal Study is designed to begin taking a careful, systematic and unbiased assessment of rural Indiana. A team from Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development, coupled with professionals from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Purdue Extension, is assembling and analyzing a wide array of quantitative and qualitative data as a way to better understand past, current and emerging trends and issues in rural Indiana.
The following outlines the specific activities that the Purdue University team is undertaking in partnership with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. There are two components to this study: (1) to create a socioeconomic profile of counties in rural Indiana and (2) assess the challenges that local governments face as a product of Indiana’s local government revenue system.