In 2004, experts said Northwest Indiana's Achilles' heel was its division of racial groups.
Region counties were increasingly diverse, but their residents led separate lives in segregated communities, according to the 2004 Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Indicators for Progress report. The report also said the lack of appreciation for diversity was an obstacle to regional progress.
Eight years later, the racial divide that has defined region residents is slowly eroding. Region municipalities and schools are more diverse, but still have a long way to go, according to the 2012 Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Indicators report.
"Too often, the people of Northwest Indiana have defined themselves by their historic differences," the report said. "Now, we need leadership to work toward a new cultural identity that aligns better with the realities of our dynamic population."
The region's population also is evolving in the ages of its residents and how they live.
Married people with children are no longer the majority of households in Northwest Indiana, according to the report. More households are headed by single parents or people living alone.
Residents' median age is nearly 40 years old, which has "substantial implications" for business, employment, government, health care, education and infrastructure, according to the report.