Where else but in the Hoosier State can you watch cars zooming around the track in the Indianapolis 500 or take a rural tour of the country's largest concentration of covered bridges? Although stories of the exact meaning for the term "Hoosier" vary, today the term is loosely used to describe anyone who lives in Indiana, and it’s been adopted by Indiana University's sports teams. Well-known Hoosiers include Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, James Dean, Larry Bird, David Letterman and John Mellencamp.
Located in America's "Heartland," Indiana has something for everyone. For the football fanatic, Indiana is home to the legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Indianapolis Colts (NFL). If basketball is more your style, there’s the Indiana Hoosiers, the Indiana Pacers (NBA) and the Indiana Fever (WNBA). Plus, let’s not forget the International World Rowing Championships, kite flying in the Indiana State Fair Balloon Race and the Senior PGA Tournament, as well as the world-famous Indy 500 that takes place every Memorial Day weekend.
Families can visit the nation's first goldfish farm, the animals at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo or even Santa Claus - that is, the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, which receives millions of Christmas wish letters each year. Then there's the Circus City Festival, Elkhart Jazz Festival, Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival and Three Rivers Festival, to name just a few of the state’s many festivals.
Indiana has a large arts community, especially in Lafayette, which hosts regular "gallery walks" through its downtown that feature works from Indiana residents as well as internationally known artists. If the simple life is what you are seeking, then the countryside of north-central Indiana is for you. In Elkhart County and LaGrange, you’ll find Amish families who share their crafts, woodworking and crops at roadside stands.
Indiana's capital and largest city, Indianapolis, is located right smack in the center of Indiana. As a bustling manufacturing hub in the early 1800s, Indianapolis was nicknamed Crossroads of America for its railroads. Today the nickname – and transportation industry importance - still holds true because of the seven interstate highways that run through or around the city, which has a metro area population of more than 1.9 million people and a healthy population growth rate of over 4.4% between 2010 and 2015.
In the mid-1900s, Indianapolis saw a major decline in manufacturing - the same decline that was sweeping cities across the nation. The state fought back economically by bringing in new forms of businesses including health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, most notably Anthem (the company behind many Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance products) and Eli Lilly and Company. In addition to these two giants, the state was home to four other Fortune 500 companies in 2015: Cummins, Steel Dynamics, NiSource and Calumet Specialty Products.
Yet Indiana’s number one industry is actually auto manufacturing, thanks in part to a General Motors truck plant, Toyota and Subaru assembly plants and engine plants for Rolls Royce and Cummins. In addition, the state produces approximately 80% of all RVs in the country. Overall, 1 in 5 jobs in Indiana is tied to manufacturing of some kind. Another leading industry is life sciences, including medical device manufacturing, which pays 56% higher wages than the average wage in Indiana. The state has more than 300 FDA-registered medical device makers.
With more than 6.5 million residents, Indiana is the 16th largest state in terms of population. Approximately 84% of Hoosiers are white, 9% are black, 6% are Hispanic, 2% are multiracial and 1% are Asian. Germans represent the largest ethnicity at 18% of the population, followed by people of Irish heritage at 7%. As of early 2016, the median household income statewide was $48,248 – roughly $5,000 below the U.S. median – while 15% of residents were living below the poverty line. Approximately 23% of Hoosiers are college graduates.
Indiana has one of the higher rates of owner-occupied housing in the country, with 67% of homes occupied by their owners. In early 2016, the median home value statewide was $127,610 – more than $55,000 less than the U.S. median – while the median rental price was $844. Values are roughly the same in Indianapolis proper, although the most expensive cities in the state are the Indianapolis suburbs of Meridian Hills and Zionsville, which had median home values of $418,798 and $357,167, respectively, in early 2016. Other pricier areas include cities like Long Beach ($356,728) and Ogden Dunes ($343,562), located near Lake Michigan and within commuting distance of Chicago.
Interestingly, the Indiana Housing Finance Authority (IHFA), a state bank, provides financing for low-interest residential mortgages and the development of rental housing. The IHFA also provides down payment assistance, foreclosure prevention programs and rapid rehousing services and grants for the homeless.