Lake County residents are still living in 1995, at least when it comes to income, according to a Ball State University study.
The report found LaPorte County residents are mired even more deeply in the past, as far as standard of living goes. Their paychecks add up to what the national average was in 1985.
Ball State's Center for Business and Economic Research looked at inflation-adjusted wages across the state, and then matched each county with the year in which its current personal income was equal to the national average. Statewide, the standard of living in Indiana is stuck in 1996. Counties with more college-educated residents had higher incomes, the study's authors noted.
Porter fared the best out of any Northwest Indiana county in the study, and was among the top five counties in the state with an average income of about $40,000, in 2010 inflation-adjusted numbers. The average U.S. national income was $39,775 in 2010.
Hancock and Warrick counties also were at the 2010 level. The only two counties in Indiana that ranked better were the posh northern Indianapolis suburbs of Boone and Hamilton.
Lake County is nearly 20 years behind the national average income, which was $23,562 in 1995. LaPorte County residents currently make an average of $30,000, or about what the national average was in 1985 after inflation is factored in.
"The largest difference between the areas with counties that have kept up or surpassed national income averages are associated with educational attainment at the bachelor's degree and beyond," said professor Michael Hicks, one of the authors of the study. "It also is clear that place-based differences play a large role in per capita income."