White students are declining in Indiana schools

I wrote this week that Indiana schools have become more racially and ethnically diverse in the past 10 years. One reason is that they enroll more students of color, but it’s also true that the number of white students has decreased – by quite a lot.

White enrollment in the state’s public and charter schools declined by 11% between 2010-11 and 2020-21, according to Indiana Department of Education data. Total enrollment held steady, thanks to increases in Asian, multiracial and, especially, Hispanic students.

Indiana is still a predominantly white state, but its white population is aging. According to census data provided by the Indiana Business Research Center, only 20.6% of the white population was under age 18 in 2020, compared to 32.3% of the nonwhite population.

Between 2010 and 2020, the state’s under-18 population fell by 11.2% for white people but increased by one-third for the Hispanic population and by two-thirds for Asians.

The change is taking place statewide. Only five of Indiana’s 92 counties saw an increase in under-18 white population since 2010. Only 45 of Indiana’s 288 school districts saw an increase in white enrollment in the past 10 years.

Some of the biggest decreases in the under-18 white population were in Marion and Lake counties, the state’s two most urban and populous counties. But the under-18 white population also declined significantly in rural areas, with the largest decreases in Cass, Randolph, Pulaski, Fountain, Newton and Spencer counties.

Six school districts in Lake County and three in Marion County saw their white enrollment decline by over 40%. The same was true for South Bend Community Schools and for tiny Northeast School Corp. in Sullivan County.

Has Indiana’s 10-year-old embrace of school choice driven this trend? Not really.

Indiana public school districts enrolled about 94,000 fewer white students in 2020-21 than 10 years earlier. The number of white students in charter schools increased, but by only about 10,000. The voucher program has grown, but it serves only 21,000 white students.

The change in Indiana schools reflects national trends, with nationwide census data showing an 8.6% decrease over 10 years in the number of people who identify as white only. Gradually – more slowly than much of the country — Indiana is becoming more diverse.

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