Study finds big shifts in Indiana immigrant trends since 1990


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Today’s Indiana immigrant likely is Mexican or Asian, under 40, a blue-collar laborer and not as proficient in English as foreign-born people who came to the U.S. even 20 years ago, according to a Purdue University study.

“The immigrant population is young, it’s growing and it is increasingly diverse,” said Brigitte Waldorf, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study’s lead researcher. “It used to be most Indiana immigrants were from Europe, but not anymore.”

Demographic snapshot

Purdue’s study, “Immigrants in Indiana: Where They Live, Who They Are and What They Do,” provides a demographic snapshot of the state’s foreign-born population.

Findings are based on data from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. censuses and the 2006 American Community Survey.

The study can be downloaded at

Research team

The research team, which included agricultural economics graduate students Uris Baldos, Tani Lee and Delphine Simon — each a first- or second-generation immigrant — found Indiana’s immigrant population jumped from 94,263 to 263,607 in the 16-year study period and foreign-born people made up about 4 percent of the state’s population in 2006.

Researchers also found Mexicans represented 46 percent and Asians more than 30 percent of Indiana’s immigrant population in 2006 and about 75 percent of the immigrant growth was concentrated in 10 Indiana counties.

The Hoosier state ranked number 10 nationally in immigrant population growth between 2000 and 2006, said Waldorf, who hails from Germany. That’s a dramatic shift from a few decades ago.

“Moving to Indiana is a new choice immigrants are making. It didn’t use to be that way,” she said. “For a long while Indiana was at the bottom of the hierarchy of preferred destinations for immigrants.”

Changes in laws

Changes in immigration laws that encouraged more non Europeans to come to America and greater job opportunities have attracted more foreign-born people to Indiana, Waldorf said.

“About three in 10 immigrants were employed in the manufacturing sector in 2006, with most of those working in industries related to motor vehicles, equipment and metal processing,” she said.

“Many immigrants also moved to rural counties and work in agriculture or meat processing plants. A good example is Daviess County, where there is a large immigrant community working for the Perdue Farms turkey processing plant.”

Counties with sizable urban areas and/or universities comprise the largest immigrant populations.

Ten counties

The 10 counties with the highest percentage net increase in immigrant population between 1990 and 2000 included Tippecanoe, 8.2 percent; Elkhart, 7.1 percent; Monroe, 5.4 percent; Lake, 5.3 percent; Noble, 4.9 percent; Marion and St. Joseph, 4.6 percent each; Allen and Hamilton, 4 percent each; and Bartholomew, 3.8 percent.

Immigrants made up 71.2 percent of Lake County’s total population growth from 1990 to 2000, the state’s highest percentage, the study indicated.

Most Indiana immigrants are middle-aged or younger, with nearly 45 percent living in the U.S. five years or fewer in 2006.


As such, many are still dealing with cultural and language challenges, Simon said.

“English proficiency is related to length of stay,” Simon said. “In the 2006 data we saw an increase in new immigrants, compared with an older census where immigrants had been here for a longer time. In some cases the newer immigrants haven’t totally adjusted to their new home.”

The language barrier is the most important issue Indiana must address if the state’s immigrant population continues rising, the study said. The study takes no position on the immigration issue itself.

“Language is the key and every immigration country has recognized that,” Waldorf said.

Immigrants who successfully integrate into American society often pursue citizenship, which is beneficial to all, Lee said.

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  1. Americans must be prepared to battle another IMMIGRATION REFORM–ANOTHER AMNESTY?

    Since the 1986 Simpson/Mazzoli Immigration and Control act, Americans have observed the relentless pursuit of our lawmakers to stamp out any law that would remove illegal aliens from our nation? This is very blatantly obvious because unlike other countries, entering America is a civil offense and not criminal? We have seen this with a sham border fence, not the original plan of a two-tier barrier envisioned by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)? That this country is drowning in people who have never been processed, because of years of absolute neglect by previous administrations. The scourge will be OVERPOPULATION in the very near future, that will devastate our agriculture, water supplies, energy and oil resources Homeland Security has the key to sever illegal labor in the workplace since the 70’s. Immigration and Social Security finally merged on this very efficient tool, to extract non-legal from your office, factory, road construction, school janitor, tree-trimmer, federal, state and municipal worker.

    E-verify have now a firm foundation of 100.000’s of honest businesses, showing extraordinary devotion to the US working man and women. However those contractors and employers who have used a fraudulent advantage by hiring illegal nationals, should be held accountable and be fined and imprisoned. E-Verify will not fade away as our corrupt politicians would like to believe. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) must have questionable reasons for de-funding its use. All those involved in the tabling of this important method, should be made an example of in future incumbent elections? For more of the truth and not propaganda, read details at VDARE, FAIRUS, JUDICIALWATCH, NUMBERSUSA, AMERICANPATROL, CAPSWEB & ALIPAC.

  2. It may be hopeless to think we can remove these illegal’s. I think it might be a good venue for the churches to try to teach these immigrants the importance of protecting the constitution; and not cave in to candidates pushing socialist perks that will eventually bring their future generations living in the same corruption they came from.

  3. Lucky Indiana. You can have ’em, with their trash, crime, and demands. We in Colorado are sick of the onslaught. Oh, and the article never says “illegal”, just immigrants – as if we don’t know the real scoop. A national travesty.

  4. In our quest for cheap labor, we sometimes do not have the foresight necessary to fully understand its ramifications. Getting cheap labor to bolster corporateā€™s profit margin has a price and the lower socioeconomic and blue collar Americans are paying the brunt of the insatiable quest for money the easy way.


  6. Tim, we also need to go to the root of the problem, way way too many people “below the border” therefore once we catch an illegal immigrants “fixem” and then send them back….of course this could lead to an increase of immigrants after a a free sterilization….


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