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Indiana's income now more in line with South than Midwest, study finds

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Indiana's income more in line with South than Midwest, study finds

The Indiana welcome sign is shown above Interstate 80/94 looking eastbound from Wentworth Avenue in Lansing. A new study found incomes in the Hoosier state are closer to the South than the Midwest.

A plethora of good-paying factory jobs has meant Indiana historically has had higher wages and a better quality of life than most southern states. 

But now a study says that Hoosier incomes have slipped to where they more closely resemble the South than the rest of the Midwest. Indiana's average wage has fallen to $17.03 an hour, which is lower than the rest of the Midwest, the United States as a whole and even the South, according to "The Status of Working Families in Indiana, 2018."

Indiana residents who work full-time earn $2,100 less a year than their peers in the Midwest and $1,000 less than southerners, the study found. They're also making about $0.67 less an hour in today's dollars than they did in 2004.

The median household in Indiana makes $4,544 less in today's dollars than in 2000, the study found. And about seven of 10 jobs in the state are expected to be low-income for a family of three by 2026.

“The data in this report should be a wake-up call to all Hoosiers that Indiana is now a fundamentally different state for working families in 2018 than it was at the beginning of the 21st century,” Indiana Institute for Working Families Senior Policy Analyst and report author Andrew Bradley said.

“The average Hoosier now makes less per hour than the average Southerner, with per capita incomes next-to-last in the Midwest even adjusting for cost of living, plus state forecasts that 7 in 10 jobs will be in low-wage occupations by 2026," Bradley said. "These aren’t accidents or bad luck, but the results of policy choices that have kept job quality standards low, weakened the safety net, reduced worker voice, widened income inequality, and put an increasing state tax burden on middle class and working families. But the good news is that Hoosiers will find a way to get the job done if they’re given the right tools."

The Indiana Institute for Working Families, an Indianapolis-based group that advocates for economic self-sufficiency for Hoosier families, found that 63.3 percent of Indiana jobs are in low-wage occupations, as compared to 62.2 percent in 200. About 32.1 percent of working families in Indiana are low income, the worst percentage in the Midwest.

Indiana also has the highest amount of workers — 25.9 percent — earning below poverty-wages in the Midwest, according to the study, which crunched federal, state and county data.

The Hoosier state came in last in the Midwest for adults with a post-secondary degree or credential, who make up 37.7 percent of the total population. Indiana has the second-to-last per capita income in the Midwest, even accounting for low-cost of living, at a time when basic costs like housing and child care have grown five times as fast as incomes since 2009.

"Indiana has historically been tightly allied with the Midwest, so falling to lower wage and job standards and quality of life shouldn’t be taken lightly. Indiana’s history and identity is inextricable from the Midwest and indeed the North, starting with the creation of the Indiana Territory from the Old Northwest," Bradley wrote in the report.


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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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