Analysis Findings, Data, Statistics

Introducing Indiana’s Immigrants

By Jay Colbert, GIS Project Manager, The Polis Center

Recently, it’s been impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the news without hearing about immigration reform. Politicians and citizens alike must consider how to address the fact that the waves of immigration (legal and illegal) are increasing.

Consider Central Indiana. In the past 40 years, the foreign-born population has increased by 622%—a much more significant growth than the 37% percent increase in US-born residents.

As the following chart shows, Marion County has the highest foreign-born population in Central Indiana. Of the county’s 2010 foreign born, only about 30% are naturalized citizens.


America has a long history of attracting immigrants. Between 1820 (when immigration records were first documented) and 1920, almost two-thirds of all immigrants chose to migrate to the US (Indiana Historical Society, Immigration and Ethnic Heritage). In fact, unless you are Native American, your family, at some point, immigrated to America within the last 400 years.

Today, the US is still the most popular destination for migrants with a 2011 immigrant population of more than 40 million (Migration Policy Institute, Migration Information Source).

Note that in the following map, Pike and Wayne townships have the highest percentages of foreign born in Marion County at greater than 9.5%.


Most immigrants in Indiana migrate from Mexico. In Marion County, for example, 46% of the foreign-born population was from Mexico. The following chart shows the breakdown of the county’s foreign-born population according to country of origin.


Many people move to the US based on its historic portrayal as the land of opportunity. Immigrants come in search of more money, better jobs, and improved quality of life. The following chart compares which occupations and industries are popular among natives and foreign born. For both native and foreign-born citizens, the most common occupation is in management, business, sciences, and arts, and the most common industry is education, health care, and social assistance.


In Marion County, the trends are different. The most common occupations for foreign-born workers are as follows:

  1. Service
  2. Production, transportation, and material moving
  3. Management, business, and science, and arts
  4. Sales & office
  5. Natural resources, construction, and maintenance

And the most common industries for foreign-born workers in Marion County are:

  1. Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services
  2. Educational services, and health care and social assistance
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Retail trade

Finally, I want to share with you some of the facts about the foreign-born population in Marion County that I found particularly interesting or surprising.

  • There is no statistically significant difference in median age between the foreign-born population and those born in the US. This is mainly because there are relatively few foreign-born children and seniors. In fact, more than 50% of the foreign-born population is between the ages of 25 and 44.
  • 90.5% are minorities
  • Foreign-born people are more likely to live in married-couple households than natives and are more likely to be married than natives
  • Foreign-born people are just as likely as US-born to hold a graduate degree.
  • Foreign-born people are more likely than native-born people to be in the labor force and to be employed.

For community leaders and nonprofit and service organizations, understanding the demographics and data associated with those immigrating to our communities is invaluable. In developing a better understanding of the people who comprise our communities, we’re better equipped to provide the resources and assistance that they need.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post when guest blogger Elizabeth White, Marion County Clerk, discusses the process of naturalization.


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