To better understand the issues facing San Pierre, it is helpful to look at the bigger picture, and examine the issues facing Starke County and rural Indiana as a whole. The maps below, (prepared by the Rural Policy Research Institute in Columbia, Missouri, the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University, and the Institute for Small Town Studies) help show San Pierre's relationship to other communities across the state of Indiana.
According to economic data, rural Indiana is considered primarily manufacturing (the dark blue in the first map below). Manufacturing accounts for 22.2% of Indiana's economy. 65 of Indiana's 92 counties are considered manufacturing counties. Starke County is one of these manufacturing counties. 6 counties are considered service economies, 4 counties are government economies, and 2 counties are mining economies. 15 counties are considered 'nonspecialized' in their economy.
Most surprisingly, not one county in Indiana is considered agricultural. According to the same economic data, agriculture accounts for roughly 1% of Indiana's economy. Less than 1% of Starke County's economy comes from farm income. Even though most residents of San Pierre and Railroad Township consider themselves to be squarely in the middle of an agricultural area, the State of Indiana does not.
The US Census designates a Metropolitan Statistical Area as a large core population center, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of social and economic integration with that core. A Micropolitan Statistical Area refers to smaller communities with similarly integrated social and economic issues, typically with populations between 10,000 and 50,000. Non-Core Communities refer to those areas isolated from either Metropolitan or Micropolitan centers. 45 of Indiana's 92 counties are considered metropolitan, 27 micropolitan, and 20 non-core counties. In northwest Indiana, Plymouth and Logansport are considered micropolitan areas. Starke County is one of two non-core counties in Indiana falling within the high crime indices.
Unemployment in Starke County is 7.0%, significantly higher than the state and national averages. Starke County does support a very high percentage of self-employed entrepreneurs. More than 20% of its non-farm population is self-employed.
While the income levels in San Pierre and Starke County are lower than state and national averages, statistics show that no one in San Pierre is living below the poverty line. We found that people in San Pierre look out for their neighbors, and have built a support network to help those in need.
The population in the United States grew 56.9% between 1960 and 2000. The population of Indiana grew 30.4% during this same time. In the last decade, population growth has begun to slow, and for the first time in almost 50 years several counties in Indiana are decreasing in population. Starke County's population continues to grow at 3.6%, while Railroad Township's population decreased by 9.4%.
The Hispanic population of Indiana more than doubled in 56 of 92 counties over the past ten years. Starke County was not one of these counties. Immigration is currently an important issue across our nation, particularly in agricultural communities, but that issue has largely not effected San Pierre as of 2008.
22 counties in Indiana have more than 15% of their residents over the age of 65. Starke County is one of these counties. The median age of residents in San Pierre is 44.8 years, 27% older than the national average or 35.3 years.
The aging population in San Pierre will require increased access to quality health care services in the coming years. Currently Starke County is considered a "Medically Underserved Area" by the State of Indiana and the US Department of Health and Human Services.
San Pierre residents graduate high school at a rate of 8.8% higher than the national average. San Pierre has twice the percentage of high school graduates than the Starke County average. San Pierre does have a lower percentage of college graduates, though, suggesting those that leave to go to college typically do not return to San Pierre after completing their education.
According to the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, travelers spent $8.91 billion in Indiana in 2004. Yet 39 of Indiana's 92 counties do not have a tourism agency serving their area. Jasper and Pulaski Counties are among those counties in the area with no organized tourism agency. Starke County's tourism agency, the Starke County Tourism Commission, publishes The Starke County Traveler magazine.
© 2008 The Institute for Small Town Studies