InContext

A publication of the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Westfield set the pace for Indiana's population growth in 2021

Matt Kinghorn

Westfield was Indiana's fastest-growing place in both numeric and percentage terms between 2020 and 2021.

With a 7.7% population increase in 2021, the city of Westfield ranked as Indiana's fastest-growing place among those with at least 5,000 residents, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Not only can Westfield boast of the state’s quickest rate of change last year, but the Hamilton County city also had the greatest numeric growth with a gain of 3,640 residents. This increase was more than twice as large as runner-up Fort Wayne, which added 1,805 residents in 2021 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cities with largest population growth, 2020 to 2021

Indiana city/town map showing top 20 places based on numeric growth

Source: IBRC, using U.S. Census Bureau data

Indianapolis-area suburban communities claimed each of the top five spots on the list of Indiana’s fastest-growing locales, with Whitestown just behind the pacesetter with a growth rate of 7.4%, followed by McCordsville (7.0% increase), Avon (5.7%) and Bargersville (5.4%).  

Three Lake County communities also rank among the state’s 10 fastest-growing places, with St. John posting a 4.9% increase in 2021, followed by Cedar Lake (3.9%) and Winfield (3.7%).

In all, 17 of the state’s 20 fastest-growing communities are found in either the Indianapolis metro area or in Lake County (see Figure 2). Outside these areas, the Clark County duo of Charlestown (4.1%) and Sellersburg (2.1%), along with Plymouth in Marshall County (2.1%), led the way in 2021.

Figure 2: Indiana’s fastest-growing cities and towns, 2020 to 2021

Indiana city/town map showing top 20 places based on percent change

Source: IBRC, using U.S. Census Bureau data

Indy-area suburbs also dominated the list of places with the largest population increases last year, claiming eight of the top 10 spots. Behind Westfield and Fort Wayne, Fishers (1,720 resident increase), Avon (1,236) and Noblesville (1,126) had the strongest gains.

While many of its suburbs continued to grow in 2021, Indianapolis itself lost population. The state’s largest city saw a drop of 5,343 residents last year—a 0.6% decline.

With a population of 882,039 residents, Indianapolis was the nation’s 15th-largest city in 2021, ranking just behind Columbus, Ohio (906,528), and ahead of Charlotte, North Carolina (879,709). Fort Wayne's population reached 265,974 in 2021 and ranks as the 84th-largest city in the United States.

Evansville (population 116,486) and South Bend (103,353) are Indiana’s next-largest cities. These two both saw a decline in population last year, with Evansville losing 772 residents and South Bend down 174 residents. Meanwhile, the Hamilton County neighbors of Fishers (101,171) and Carmel (100,777) each eclipsed the 100,000 residents mark for the first time in 2021 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Indiana’s 15 largest cities in 2021

City Total population, 2021 Change, 2020-2021 Percent change
Indianapolis 882,039 -5,343 -0.6%
Fort Wayne 265,974 1,805 0.7%
Evansville 116,486 -772 -0.7%
South Bend 103,353 -174 -0.2%
Fishers 101,171 1,720 1.7%
Carmel 100,777 885 0.9%
Bloomington 79,968 167 0.2%
Hammond 76,984 -623 -0.8%
Noblesville 70,926 1,126 1.6%
Lafayette 70,835 26 0.0%
Gary 68,325 -528 -0.8%
Muncie 65,292 51 0.1%
Greenwood 64,918 883 1.4%
Kokomo 59,691 85 0.1%
Terre Haute 58,525 -18 0.0%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Looking at differences between urban and rural communities, these population estimates show that most Hoosiers live in cities or towns. Nearly 37% of the state’s population lived in one of Indiana’s 21 cities with a population of at least 50,000 last year. Roughly 19% of Hoosiers lived in an incorporated place of between 10,000 and 50,000 residents, while another 12% lived in one of the 485 Indiana cities or towns with fewer than 10,000 residents.

In all, slightly more than two-thirds of Indiana’s 6.8 million residents lived in incorporated places, while the remaining 2.2 million Hoosiers lived in unincorporated areas of the state. Indiana's cities and towns as a group accounted for 72% of the state's total population growth in 2021 (see Table 2).

Table 2: Indiana population by community type, 2021

Community type Count Total
population
Percent of
Indiana population
Percent change,
2020-2021
Percent of Indiana
total growth
City/town, population 50,000+ 21 2,496,618 36.7% 0.2% 20%
City/town, population 10,000-49,999 61 1,282,678 18.8% 0.6% 37%
City/town, population < 10,000 485 796,283 11.7% 0.4% 15%
Unincorporated areas n/a 2,230,406 32.8% 0.3% 28%

Source: IBRC, using U.S. Census Bureau data

For more estimates data, visit the STATS Indiana population topic page.