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Wage growth unequal among Indiana counties

The average wage has risen for a decade in Indiana, though some counties have fared much better than others in household income. Indiana’s current average annual wage is $54,968. Eight counties exceed that average while fully half fall below it by $10,000 or more.

Wages grew by 1% from 2020 to 2021, adjusted for inflation, according to the Indiana Business Research Center, and 13.4% since 2011. Thirty-one counties exceeded that average. Wages in Pike, Martin and Howard counties fell when adjusted for inflation during that same period.

Indiana’s overall average wage has grown over the last 10 years but not kept pace with other states. Indiana now ranks 34th in average annual wage, which is 81.3% of the nation’s average of $67,610 according to STATSAmerica. Ten years ago, Indiana’s average wage equaled 83.9% of the national average.

The highest wages in Indiana are concentrated in eight counties: Martin, $72,064; Marion, $66,403; Hamilton, $62,907; Bartholomew, $61,595; Elkhart, $61,223; Posey, $61,092; Gibson, $56,537 and Dekalb, $55,510 according to data from StatsIndiana.

Eight counties have an average annual wage 30% or more below the state average: Brown, Crawford, Franklin, Ohio, Parke, Starke, Switzerland and Union.

Counties posting the highest decadal income growth are Elkhart, 17.13%; LaGrange, 14.00%; Ohio County, 11.80% and Ripley, 11.44%.

Despite that disparity in income growth, the gap is actually closing according to Rachel Strange, a geodemographic analyst at Indiana Business Research Center.

“The spread between the highest and lowest counties is actually decreasing slightly over time,” Strange wrote. “The counties at the bottom of the list aren’t necessarily falling further behind the leaders—but they aren’t gaining that much ground either.”

The important thing, according to Strange, is to view wage data against inflationary trends. “As our economy continues to adapt to this current period of high inflation, it will be increasingly important for economic developers and policymakers to stay informed on how well average wages are holding up over time,” she wrote.

The top average annual wages in the United States are in the District of Columbia, $112,148; New York; $88,035; Massachusetts, $87,752; California, $85,741 and Washington, $82,477.

This article originally appeared on The Center Square.

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