The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating story last week about America’s increased diversity as revealed by the 2020 census. Focusing on Columbus, Indiana, it showed that “small Midwestern towns” are where the nation is diversifying the fastest.
“One in seven residents in Columbus … was born outside the United States,” the story said. “Public school students collectively speak more than 50 languages and dialects at home. Roughly three dozen foreign companies operate in the area.”
You can also see this trend in enrollment figures for Indiana schools. Between 2010-11 and 2020-21, students in Indiana public and charter schools who identify as a race or ethnicity other than white increased from 26.9% to 34.2%, according to Indiana Department of Education data.
The Journal said increased diversity in Columbus and surrounding Bartholomew County was driven by Cummins Inc.’s efforts to recruit “global talent” for its workforce. International companies followed; driving through Columbus on I-65 you see facilities for businesses based in Japan, China and elsewhere. Some 57% of foreign-born in Bartholomew County are from Asia.
But there is no single immigration story. In some Indiana cities, towns and rural counties, the Latino population has exploded, drawn by farm and food production jobs. Tens of thousands of refugees from Myanmar (Burma) are in the state, most in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.
In Bartholomew County Consolidated Schools in Columbus, the share of students who are white declined from 80% to 68.5% in the past decade. Percentages doubled for Asian and Latino students.
Statewide, the biggest change was in Latino enrollment, which increased from 8.5% to 13.1% over the last 10 years. Asian, Black and multiracial enrollment also increased.
Some of the biggest changes have been in Indianapolis. In Perry Township schools on the south side of the city, students who are not white doubled from 30% to 60%. The percentage of nonwhite students grew by double digits in eight of the 11 Indianapolis school districts (but not Indianapolis Public Schools). Latino and Asian students accounted for most of the increase.
Elsewhere, there were large demographic shifts in some rural and small-city school districts. In Seymour Community Schools, nonwhite enrollment increased from 16% to 43%. In North White schools, it doubled to 50%. In Randolph Eastern, it grew from 16% to 36%.
Twenty-nine Indiana school districts are now “majority minority” – more than half of their students identify as other than non-Hispanic white. They include urban districts in Marion and Lake counties but also Goshen, Frankfort, Logansport, North White and West Noble, which have been transformed by Latino immigration.
The Wall Street Journal notes, “The political influence of these newer arrivals could grow in the coming decades as more immigrants become voting citizens. For now, these trends generally favor Democrats.”
That hasn’t happened yet, however. A 2016 Pew Research Center report said that only 39% of Latinos in Indiana are eligible to vote – presumably because most are too young or are not yet citizens – compared to 78% of the white population.
In the 2020 presidential election, rural counties with large and growing Latino populations voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Jackson County (Seymour), Noble County (West Noble) and Clinton County (Frankfort) favored Trump by margins of about 3-to-1.