Region One: Northwest Indiana

The Area

Region One comprises seven counties in northwest Indiana. It is bordered on the north by Lake Michigan and on the west by the city of Chicago and Illinois. Northwest Indiana provides "Chicago living at Indiana prices," according to the Northwest Indiana Forum. With its network of interstates and proximity to Chicago, the region is heavily traveled.


Population, Lifestyles

Nearly one in six Hoosiers live in this part of the state, with a regional population of 823,388. Two of the region's seven counties-Lake and Porter-are among Indiana's most populous.

Lake County dominates the region with its population of 485,000 people and is the second largest county in the state. Porter County has been one of the state's fastest growing over the past decade, ranking ninth in the state with 147,000 people. Jasper County also grew by 21% between censuses in 1990 and 2000. Overall, the region added 38,000 people to its resident population between 1990 and 2000.

Hispanics have long gravitated to this area outside Chicago - this region has 33% of the state's Hispanic population. More than 71,000 Hispanics now reside in Region One, with more than 59,000 of those concentrated in Lake County. The majority population in all seven counties of the region continues to be white, although in counties such as Lake (66.7%) and La Porte (86.3%), that majority is shrinking. Most households are family households, comprising 71% of all household types. Married couple families are 52% of households, and 14% of households are female householders living with children or other relatives.

Commuting Patterns

More than 67,000 people commuted into the counties of this region for work. Lake County alone drew nearly 42,000 workers into the county, based on work and residence (commuting) data gleaned from state income tax returns for 1999. Lake County sent more than 33,000 of its residents over the state border to Illinois for work, while Porter County sent 21,453 people into Lake.


La Porte County's strongest commuting partners were Porter County on the west and St. Joseph County on the east. Jasper sent the largest number of its residents, 2,701, to Lake County for work, with another 925 to Porter County and 655 to Illinois.

The other southern counties of this region varied somewhat in their commuting preferences. While Newton County had 1,686 of its residents working in Lake County, another 693 went to Jasper County and 641 to Illinois. Pulaski and Starke counties followed a different road, however, exchanging more workers with counties such as Marshall, White and Fulton counties. For details on commuting interaction, see STATS Indiana.

Industrial Mix, Jobs and Wages

The industrial base of this area is diverse, as shown by third quarter 2000 details from covered employment and wage data organized and analyzed by the Indiana Business Research Center (see Table 1).

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Table 1

Region One has nearly 12% of all nonfarm employment in the state, and its wages are close to or higher than the statewide average. This region is still recognized as one of the largest steel-producing areas of the country, and wages continue to be highest in the manufacturing industries.

The services sector had the largest number of establishments (5,440) and jobs (109,999). That sector was followed somewhat distantly by retail (65,046) and manufacturing (64,055). The highest wages, however, were in the durable goods manufacturing sector, with an annualized average of $48,521. That average was more than $7,000 higher than the average for that sector for the state as a whole.

Labor Force

The labor force is defined as people living in the region who are either employed or seeking employment. The annual average labor force estimates for last year (2000) show the region's unemployment rate at 4.3%. That rate was higher than Indiana's 3.2% and the nation's rate of 4.0%.

Further information can be gleaned from the following Web sites: STATS Indiana, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Indiana Department of Commerce and the Northwest Indiana Forum.

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Table 2