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INDIANAPOLIS — New data shows more Hoosiers are moving to suburban areas compared to other parts of the state.

U.S. Census estimates analyzed by the IU Kelley School of Business show Westfield was the fastest-growing community in the state, with 7.7% population growth in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Out of the top 20 towns for population growth, 17 are located near Indianapolis or in Lake County, according to Matt Kinghorn, senior demographer for the Indiana Business Research Center at the IU Kelley School of Business.

“The movement to the suburbs has been going on for decades,” he said.

Kinghorn said he expects that growth in metropolitan areas to continue.

“Not only is it some of these emerging suburban communities like Whitestown or Westfield or McCordsville, but it’s also even the largest urban communities,” Kinghorn added. “I think it’s interesting both Fishers and Carmel both moved past 100,000 residents last year.”

Meanwhile, several of Indiana’s major cities – including Indianapolis, South Bend and Evansville – saw their populations decline, according to the data. The exception is Fort Wayne, the community with the second-highest number of new residents last year out of all Indiana communities.

Cities losing residents could be linked to the pandemic, Kinghorn said, adding that he doesn’t expect that to be an ongoing trend.

“We see really just a handful of areas in the state that are growing, and we see large swaths of the state that are losing population,” he said.

That includes rural areas. U.S. Census data shows between 2010 and 2020, more than half of Indiana’s counties saw their populations decrease, and that played a role in redistricting.

“It gives us a better sense of understanding of where the power is moving,” said Laura Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

Those changes mean more representatives at the Statehouse for metropolitan areas and fewer lawmakers representing rural communities, Wilson explained.

The population shift could also impact the politics in suburban areas, she added.

“You expect to see more competitive races because there are more people coming together,” Wilson said. “And probably more diversity in terms of opinions, more difference in terms of ideas and more individuals who are interested in being represented.”