Hoosiers Commuting Into Illinois for Work: Timing Ripe to Reverse the Flow?

More than 50,000 residents of Indiana commute to Illinois for work, based on data produced by the Indiana Department of Revenue and analyzed, mapped and available from the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University on an annual basis. That number is larger than the total population in some of our counties.  Considering the recent ballooning of Illinois income and business taxes, the time seems ripe for Indiana to consider bringing those Illinois businesses closer to their workforce in Indiana.

The majority of Hoosiers who commute to Illinois for work are located in the northwest part of Indiana, but a fair number also live in Vigo, Vermillion, Vanderburgh and Posey counties in the western and southern parts of our state (see Table 1).

Table 1: Indiana Workers Commuting to Illinois from Select Counties, 2008

County Workers Commuting into Illinois Percent of County Labor Force
Lake County 43,925 14.8%
Porter County 7,010 6.6%
Vermillion County 804 7.2%
Vigo County 552 0.9%
Gibson County 158 0.7%
Vanderburgh County 133 0.1%

Source: IBRC, using Indiana Department of Revenue data

A far lower number of Illinois residents commute into northwest Indiana for work. This imbalance could be changed if businesses in Illinois that already employ a large number of Hoosiers re-located their business to Indiana or expanded into a new location in Indiana.

Conversely, a large number of Illinois residents travel to Indiana for work in Vanderburgh, Gibson (think Toyota) and Vigo counties.

Northwest Indiana

Figure 1 shows the heavy commuting flows between Northwest Indiana and Illinois. According to older but still relevant Census 2000 data, the majority of Lake County, Indiana residents going to Illinois for work were headed for jobs in Cook County, Illinois.

Figure 1: Commuting between Illinois and Northwest Indiana

Into LakeOut of Lake

Into PorterOut of Porter

Source: IBRC, using Indiana Department of Revenue data

Southwest Indiana

While commuting to and from Illinois and southwest Indiana is not as large as in the Chicago region, the commuting patterns are still significant and, in some ways, more evenly balanced (see Figure 2). Gibson County is a big draw for Illinois residents, most likely because of the Toyota plant and its suppliers in the region. Vanderburgh (Evansville) receives more workers from both Illinois and Kentucky than leave the county to work in those states.

Figure 2: Commuting between Illinois and Southwest Indiana, 2008

Into GibsonOut of Gibson

Into VanderburghOut of Vanderburgh

Source: IBRC, using Indiana Department of Revenue data

Western Indiana

The music industry, in the form of Columbia and now Sony, has been a big draw to residents of Illinois.  However, if we consider Vermillion County, to the north of Terre Haute, we see more Hoosiers crossing the border for work than Illinoisans. The total opposite is true of Vigo County, which continues to draw nearly four times the workers from Illinois than leave Indiana for jobs in that state (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Commuting between Illinois and Western Indiana, 2008

Into VermillionOut of Vermillion

Into VigoOut of Vigo

Source: IBRC, using Indiana Department of Revenue data

Carol O. Rogers
Deputy Director and Executive Editor, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business