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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
At least they mean well.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
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William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner cast their hometown in a starring role in their debut effort as filmmakers.
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The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
MARK BENNETT: Quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts
You’ll need a broom, a pickup truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin.
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MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
MARK BENNETT: Young at heart
Imagine an alternate ending to the old Life cereal commercial.
MARK BENNETT: The Drunk: Making peace
Terre Haute grew fond of Eugene Debs.
The process took time.
Debs film to debut at Indiana Theatre
Set in Terre Haute, based loosely on the legacy of a Terre Haute icon, the movie “The Drunk” has one appropriate place for its premiere.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
MARK BENNETT: ‘Longest Night Service’ a time to reflect, remember
Holiday images rarely depict hurt or struggle.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
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.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
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.”
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: People spaces