TERRE HAUTE —
At least they mean well.
So often, you’ll hear an adult try to inspire activity in a listless high school kid by saying, “These are the best years of your life.” That’s the last thought an anxious teenager wants rattling through his or her mind on graduation day — “It’s all downhill from here?”
Actually, the opposite should be the goal. Ideally, school prepares young folks for better days and years ahead, their “prime time of life.”
Each of us might define his “prime” differently. While the body may slow over time, the mind gets wiser (for most people, that is.) So, depending on one’s view, that peak could be 25, 30, 40, 50 or 60 and beyond. For the optimistic, their prime is always the current year.
Demographers — experts who study the trends and behavior of people of various age, gender and ethic groups — are more definitive. Most demographers consider the prime working years of Americans to occur between the ages of 25 and 54. Of course, there are always exceptions. Many 23-year-olds possess more maturity and responsibility than some 48-year-olds. Still, the 25-to-54 crowd typically earns the “prime working age” label.
Thus, logically, the sweet-spot of a career would, on average, arrive in the middle of that 20-year span, between birthdays No. 35 and 44.
If so, Vigo County’s labor force is not as ready for prime time as it was a decade ago.
The number of Vigo Countians in the 35-to-44 age bracket shrank by 1,863 between 2000 and 2010, according to recently released U.S. Census figures. That’s the equivalent of the entire student population of Terre Haute South Vigo High School. The decrease in prime working-age residents becomes even more glaring when you consider the expansion at the Federal Correctional Complex in the middle of the past decade boosted the county’s overall population through 1,487 additional inmates. Those extra prisoners ages 35 to 44 would pad that age group’s numbers, yet it dwindled drastically.
A total of 15,148 35-to-44-year-olds lived in Vigo County when the 2000 Census was conducted. In the 2010 Census, the 35-to-44 group totaled just 13,285.
So what gives?
“That’s directly related to the Baby Boom generation followed by the Baby Bust generation,” said Matt Kinghorn, demographer for the Indiana Business Research Center.
Yes, my generation continues to unsettle the status quo in everything from TV programming to Medicare. The passage of 76 million Americans, born between the end of World War II and The Beatles invasion, from youth to middle age to retirement causes endless changes. And, to be sure, Vigo County is not alone in seeing its prime working-age population plummet. From 2000 to 2010, the number of Americans 35 to 39 dropped 11.1 percent, and the 40-to-44 demographic decreased by 6.9 percent.
But Vigo County’s predicament is compounded by other trends revealed by the 2010 Census.
Remember all that talk about how the Great Recession was really a “man-cession,” affecting primarily male-dominated industries? The most stable sector of the U.S. workforce during that 2007-09 downturn was women. Well, unfortunately for Vigo County, its prime working-age female population got much smaller during the past decade. Women inordinately account for a whopping 70 percent of the county’s decline in 35-to-44-year-olds — 1,307 females, compared to 556 males. That shift limits this community’s ability to recover from the man-cession. It also creates another problem the county will feel for many years.
Fewer working women means fewer working moms. And fewer children. Nationally, almost every segment of the youth population grew. (Kids under 5 were up 5.3 percent, 5 to 9 down 1 percent, 10 to 14 up 0.7 percent, and 15 to 19 up 9 percent.) But in Vigo County, each of those age groups decreased. The county had 1,401 fewer kids ages 19-and-under in 2010 than a decade earlier. At Chauncey Rose Middle School, for example, student enrollment has fallen from 672 in 1999-2000 to a projected 298 this fall. That school will close next year, in part due to the declining student population.
The county needs to find ways to attract more prime working-age women. And while that may sound like an ad strategy for eharmony
.com, the implications of letting this trend go unattended are quite serious. That gap in the local labor force might cause potential employers to hesitate when considering Vigo County. Likewise, the decline in school-age population forces hard changes in the otherwise healthy Vigo County School Corp.
The county made lots of progress during the past decade, and if that upward climb continues, then nobody can say this community’s best days are behind it.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
At least they mean well.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
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MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
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Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
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.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
Lent meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute
Initially, the concept might conjure images of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jumping out of an airplane or sitting atop the Pyramids. Instead, think “Lent Meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute.”
MARK BENNETT: Never truer: Knowledge vital to narrowing ‘skills gap’
The pillar at the gates of Faber College in the movie “Animal House” bore a wise motto, despite its tongue-in-cheek intent …
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