Socioeconomic and Fiscal Study of Rural Indiana

Rural Counties Face Unique Challenges in Recovering from Recession

The economic recession that occurred in our nation over the course of the 2008-2009 period wreaked havoc in many communities across the United States. Not only did the housing market tumble, but the unemployment rate skyrocketed, and job creation stopped dead in its tracks. Adding further pain was the decline in household income and the uptick in poverty levels for increasing numbers of families. Like most states, the Great Recession hit was a painful period for many Hoosier families and communities.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016, the social and economic conditions of the state have been showing steady improvement. Housing construction and home sales are recovering. The rate of unemployment is falling, job expansion is on the rise, poverty is slowly declining and population growth has returned to the state. Despite the signs that our state and nation have finally turned the corner with regard to the damaging effects of the Great Recession, the fact remains that major challenges persist for our state, especially for its rural counties and communities. With the exception of rural counties that are located in close proximity to most metropolitan areas, many rural areas are experiencing population decline, job losses in manufacturing and agriculture (the traditional drivers of the economy of these areas), limited improvements in the human capital credentials of the adult workforce, persistence of high rates of adult and child poverty and more. An added challenge are the limits on local government investments in infrastructure, broadband, housing, community facilities, public education and more as a result of an inadequate revenue base or statutory restrictions on revenue growth.

Purdue’s Socioeconomic and Fiscal Study: Assesses Rural Indiana

Purdue’s Socioeconomic and Fiscal Study is designed to begin taking a careful, systematic and unbiased assessment of rural Indiana. A team from Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development, coupled with professionals from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Purdue Extension, is assembling and analyzing a wide array of quantitative and qualitative data as a way to better understand past, current and emerging trends and issues in rural Indiana.

The following outlines the specific activities that the Purdue University team is undertaking in partnership with the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. There are two components to this study: (1) to create a socioeconomic profile of counties in rural Indiana and (2) assess the challenges that local governments face as a product of Indiana’s local government revenue system.

Socioeconomic Profile of Rural Indiana: Conditions and Trends

This portion of the study will include the following:
  • Examine the Rural Definition
  • Explore the Demographic Features of Rural Indiana
  • Track Economic Conditions in the State’s Rural Areas
  • Study the Rural Labor Force and its Journey to Work Characteristics

Indiana’s Local Government Revenue System: Examining Fiscal Challenges for Rural Areas

This portion of the study will include the following:
  • Examine Indiana’s Local Government Tax System for Rural Communities
  • Inventory Local Government Revenue Streams in Rural Indiana
  • Study Tax Increment Finance’s Effect on Infrastructure Investments

Study Outcomes

  1. Website: After conducting this study, Purdue will develop a website that serves as a one-stop shop for socioeconomic and fiscal data on rural Indiana.
  2. Topical Reports: The Purdue team will prepare a series of information briefs that build on the data resources that will have been compiled as part of this proposal.
  3. Educational Program for Local Elected Officials: The Purdue Team will develop and teach an educational program for local elected officials based on the findings of the study. The programming will focus on the revenue-raising options available to local governments and the implications of these tools for the levying unit, overlapping governmental units and taxpayers.

Partners & Sponsors

Center for Regional DevelopmentOffice of Community Rural Affairs

To learn more about Purdue’s Rural Housing Study, contact:


Bo Beaulieu

Purdue Extension Educator, Tippecanoe County, Assistant Director/Program Leader of the Extension Community Development Program


Program Leader