News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 5, 2013

MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays

TERRE HAUTE — Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.

Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.

OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits. After all, most people would hope their incomes, adjusted for inflation, have changed — for the better — since the days of “Where’s the beef?” and “Whip It.”

But, alas, the paychecks of thousands of Hoosiers and Hauteans should carry a Memory Lane address.

The average Vigo Countian enjoys a standard of living equal to that which the rest of the nation experienced, on average, in 1986.

1986. Chernobyl happened that year, and Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s worthless vault.

Twenty-seven years later, a new study by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research analyzes per-capita incomes of Indiana residents in 2010. The researchers adjusted those numbers for inflation and assigned each county a year in which that county’s present standard of living corresponds to the average standard of living nationally. In most places, Hoosiers’ income levels stand a couple decades behind Americans elsewhere. The state’s average 2010 income of $34,042 matched the national level of 1996, according to BSU’s report, “The Causes of State Differences in Per Capita Income: How Does Indiana Fare?”

Vigo County, with a $30,612 average per-capita income rate, lingers a decade behind even most Hoosiers. So does Vigo’s neighboring counties of Parke (1982), Sullivan (1983), Clay (1984) and Greene (1986). Vermillion lives in comparatively robust 1994.

As the study’s lead researcher, Michael Hicks, explained the numbers by telephone from Muncie, he quipped, “I’m calling you from 1984.”

Muncie and Ball State lie within Delaware County, where average incomes are an ’84-ish $29,565.

Hicks, director of the research center and economics professor at BSU, emphasized that the income figures include caveats. The numbers are skewed a bit in counties with large Amish populations, big farms (where incomes may not reflect wealth) or thousands of low-earning college students. Still, those variables only slightly move the needle. LaGrange County in northeast Indiana, for example, is home to lots of self-sufficient Amish folks, the state’s lowest per-capita income at $19,938 and a standard of living last seen nationally in 1964.

“For LaGrange County, [the Amish variable] probably moved them from 1972 to 1964,” Hicks said.

That year, 1964, is significant. It marks the last time incomes in Indiana equaled the rest of America. Since then, the standard of living in Indiana has solidly improved (today, it’s twice that of 1960s families), yet the gap between Hoosiers and residents of other states has widened. Indiana ranked 40th in per-capita income in 2010, 30th in 1980, and 21st in 1950.

The routine response to low wages in this community and state is, “Well, the cost of living is much lower here. It all evens out.”

Sort of.

Housing and many commodities do indeed cost less, Hicks said, but those don’t necessarily translate into a higher standard of living. After an Indiana Chamber of Commerce official, interviewed on NPR’s State Impact Indiana, dismissed the low-income issue raised by the Ball State study because of a low cost of living in the state, Hicks countered in a response to the Tribune-Star. Hicks used Muncie’s situation as an example.

“Muncie is routinely labeled as one of the most affordable housing markets in the country,” Hicks stated. “Given the Chamber’s enthusiasm at that ranking, you’d suppose there’d be a rush to move here. There is not; the housing prices are low for the simple reason that the market for real estate in Delaware County leads to low prices. That is directly linked to the desirability of the community.”

Indiana saw more of its population move out (15.2 percent) than move in (14.7 percent) between 2004 and 2010, according to the study. A reversal of the trend requires patient determination to improve the quality of life in places such as Terre Haute, Muncie and Kokomo, Hicks said. Public policy initiatives help, but they take years to yield results.

Instead of hinging hopes for economic development on landing a huge factory with thousands of jobs, communities can see reliable dividends from investing resources in local schools, parks, trails and early childhood education programs, Hicks said. Improvement in the homegrown portion of Indiana’s labor force must begin in the preschool and K-12 levels. Retaining Hoosier college grads, and luring those from other states, means Indiana, Terre Haute and other communities must invest in quality-of-life amenities. Increasing the number of residents with high-demand skills will draw employers and raise incomes.

Terre Haute has room for improvement. The Ball State report assigned A-to-F grades to various categories for each county. Vigo’s report card: human capital education (C-minus), human capital health (C-minus), government impact and economy (D) and arts-entertainment-recreation (A).

“If you wish to be a prosperous community in the future, you’re going to have to be a community that attracts prosperous people,” Hicks said. “And I’m not talking about a yuppification.”

Yuppies are so 1980s, anyway.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@tribstar.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET070914 house exterior.jpg Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie

    Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos

  • Detour ahead

    A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 barrels.jpg MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers

    We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • City Council to take up city finances tonight

    The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.

    July 9, 2014

  • Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement

    Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.

    July 9, 2014

  • Vermillion Jail trusties face new charges

    Two former inmate trusties at the Vermillion County Jail face new criminal charges after a recently discovered security breach at the jail.

    July 9, 2014

  • Lawrence police acquire armored military vehicle

    A central Indiana city has acquired an armored military vehicle for use in highly dangerous situations.

    July 9, 2014

  • Free carwash for law enforcement

    Mike’s Carwash locations in Central Indiana, including Terre Haute, will honor the sacrifice of IMPD Officer Perry Renn and thank all those who serve and protect our communities with a free carwash for police and emergency personnel today and Friday.

    July 9, 2014

  • Indiana agencies told to ignore gay marriages

    Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s office is telling state agencies act as if no gay marriages had been performed during three days following a federal court order.

    July 9, 2014

  • State reports West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes

    INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials confirmed the first signs of West Nile virus activity in Indiana for 2014. Mosquitoes in Marshall and Pike counties have tested positive for West Nile virus. There have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in humans in the state this year.

    July 9, 2014

  • Indiana education board faces contentious meeting

    Indiana’s State Board of Education is gearing up for another showdown between Democratic schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s appointees and staff.
    The board is set to consider a pair of resolutions dealing with control of the board during a meeting Wednesday.

    July 9, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 9, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on jail records.

    July 9, 2014

  • Indiana getting $849,000 for outdoor projects

    Indiana is receiving $849,000 to use toward outdoor recreation and conservation projects.

    July 9, 2014

  • Semi fire halts I-70 traffic in Putnam County

    A fire in a semi tractor-trailer temporarily closed eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 in Putnam County on Tuesday evening.

    July 9, 2014

  • I&M proposes five solar facilities in two states

    Indiana Michigan Power plans to seek permission to build five solar generating facilities in the two states it serves.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 voice four.jpg Hitting a high note

    A 17-year-old from Casey, Ill., won “The Voice of the Valley” Tuesday night, singing and shaking his hips and legs to an Elvis Presley song, then wooing the grandstand audience at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds with a country tune.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 070814 STORM STAUNTON.jpg Clay County residents clean up debris, get power back

    Several power outages still affected hundreds of Duke Energy customers on Tuesday, more than 24 hours after storms and strong winds swept through west-central Indiana, leaving a swath of damage in the Staunton, Brazil and Center Point areas.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 052106 EVANBAYH ADDRESS.jpg Return to Indiana?

    Evan Bayh is keeping Indiana Democrats on hold.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Planning under way for 2014 Downtown Block Party

    Wabash Avenue will be full of activity Aug. 23 as the 2014 Downtown Terre Haute Block Party takes over five city blocks in a celebration of music, food and events.

    July 8, 2014

  • MET 070814 CATHOLIC WARE.jpg Guys give food bank a lift

    A $14,000 donation Tuesday from Guys Who Give enables Catholic Charities to be at nearly 75 percent of its $2.5 million goal to purchase and operate a new, larger food bank near Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

    July 8, 2014 2 Photos

  • wilson,robert.jpg ‘Dangerous’ suspect in police custody

    A man sought by the Vermillion County Sheriff's Department has been nabbed by police in Indianapolis.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • eBus brings financial empowerment to town

    A 40-foot long mobile classroom is scheduled to roll  into Terre Haute today, carrying what its sponsors call “financial empowerment.”

    July 8, 2014

  • Elderly woman accused of killing 89-year-old husband

    An 83-year-old woman, described as "a loose cannon" by her landlord, has been arrested in this Buffalo suburb for beating her 89-year-old husband to death.

    July 8, 2014

  • wilson,robert.jpg BREAKING: ‘Dangerous’ suspect in police custody

    A suspect police considered “armed and dangerous” is now in custody in Marion County.
    Robert Wilson is facing local charges there and has a hold on him for Vermillion County, according to Vermillion County Sheriff Robert J. Spence.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 051713 BAYH SMILE.jpg Former governor Bayh weighs decision to run again

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Evan Bayh is keeping Indiana Democrats on hold.
    Party loyalists longing for a political savior to retake the governor's office have been waiting on Bayh ever since he abruptly decided to leave the U.S. Senate and political life three years ago.

    July 8, 2014 3 Photos

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 8, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.

    July 8, 2014

  • Update: Silver Alert for Lawrence man canceled

    The city of Lawrence Police Department has canceled a Silver Alert issued earlier this morning.

    July 8, 2014

  • Thomas to resign as Indiana’s inspector general

    The only person to serve as Indiana’s top ethics watchdog since the position of inspector general was created in 2005 is planning to leave.

    July 8, 2014

  • Indiana 42 road washout.jpg Photo update: Indiana 42 washed out in Clay County

    A state highway in western Indiana has been closed after heavy rains washed out part of the roadway.

    July 8, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 070714 CULVER PHOTO.jpg Maker of history

    A humble man with a heart for helping others is an apt description for Terre Haute resident Curtis B. Culver.
    Culver died July 2 at age 94, leaving behind a legacy of missionary work and social involvement.

    July 7, 2014 3 Photos

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death Raw: Rocket Explodes Over Israeli Wedding Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Weaver Reprises Ripley Role for 'Alien' Game Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Raw: World's Tallest Water Slide Opens Thursday Raw: Stampede in Rio During World Cup Sterling Testifies in Los Angeles Clippers Trial Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor Tornadoes Kill Four in Central New York Track Owners Fight to End Greyhound Racing Raw: Obama Shoots Pool in Denver Obama Talks Economy, Slams Republicans Typhoon Nears Japan's Main Islands Raw: Palestinians Clash With Israeli Forces Mississippi River Flooding Likely to Slow Down Wisconsin Cop Ready to Roll...On Skateboard Cleveland Picked to Host 2016 GOP Convention Today in History for July 9th Former NFL Player 'Excited' Deal Almost Done
NDN Video
Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel Pilot buys pizzas for travelers delayed by storm Klose nets record, Germany rout Brazil 7-1 'Purrmanently Sad Cat' Looks Adorably Sad All the Time Pharrell 'humbled' by success of mega-hit 'Happy' Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Jennifer Lawrence Facepalms Emma Watson Athletes Bare All for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue Raw: Brazil Fans Leaving Stadium Before Half Andi Dorfman Walks Out During the Rose Ceremony 5 Firework Fails for July 4th Justin Bieber Catches Tom Hanks Getting Down, Showing ‘How We Do It Big shoes to fill for Brazil ahead of Germany clash Man's 'Potato Salad' Plea Takes Off on Kickstarter Joan Rivers Storms Out of Interview Watch: A turtle and dog play ball Yikes! This Jet is Way Too Close Late-Night Highlight: Ben Falcone Screwed Up His Proposal To Melissa McCarthy Jenny and Sherri Talk "View" Departure
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity