Regional Personal Income Grows More Slowly, Falling Short of National Rate

Pinning the metric to perhaps a lower cost of living across the region, data released today shows that while per capita personal income continues to grow in Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana, it is doing so at a slower rate than in recent years and not as fast as the nation as a whole, either.

Based on the recently released U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data, from 2018 to 2019, Per Capita Personal Income in the cross border region of South Bend – Elkhart, which includes Berrien and Cass Counties in Michigan’s Great Southwest, grew 1.5-percent, compared to both the nation’s rate of 3.5-percent and the region’s 3.7-percent growth in the prior reporting period between 2017 and 2018.

The Michigan side of the border showed a narrowly higher growth rate in both Berrien and Cass Counties than in any of the Northwest Indiana Counties in the region.

Overall, more than $34.5 billion of total personal income circulated in the South Bend – Elkhart region’s five counties in 2019. That was an increase of more than $500 million of total personal income as compared to 2018, resulting in a $696 increase in per capita personal income.

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Indiana University South Bend Professor of Economics and Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Dr. Hong Zhuang, says, “Putting the data in a national context, the South Bend – Elkhart region’s per capita personal incomes are below the national averages, possibly due to a lower cost of living,” and adds, “And the local income growth rates are also lower than the national average growth rate.”

The region’s 2019 PCPI was $47,407, which is 83.92-percent of the national PCPI. Here is a breakdown for each county:


  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % Change
from 2018 
Berrien County, MI $38,208 $40,044 $42,374 $44,018 $45,376 $47,461 $48,237 1.64%
Cass County, MI $35,773 $37,258 $39,140 $41,290 $42,932 $44,675 $45,409 1.64%
Elkhart County, IN $35,575 $38,216 $39,865 $41,959 $45,343 $46,354 $46,975 1.34%
Marshall County, IN $35,158 $36,180 $36,777 $38,360 $40,261 $41,704 $42,196 1.18%
St. Joseph County, IN $38,946 $40,964 $43,437 $43,893 $45,904 $47,801 $48,535 1.54%
SBE Region (5 Counties) $37,378 $39,426 $41,473 $42,837 $45,063 $46,712 $47,407 1.49%
% of National Average 83.38% 83.84% 84.74% 85.90% 86.85% 85.54% 83.92%

South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership President and CEO, Regina Emberton, says, “The South Bend – Elkhart region is in year four of an eight-year Regional Economic Development Strategy focused on Industry Growth, Entrepreneurship, Workforce Development, Talent Retention, and Inclusion, with the ultimate goal being to match or exceed national per capita income by 2025.” She cautions, “The slowing pace of per capita personal income growth in 2019 reemphasizes the need for critical investments that will ensure long-term economic sustainability.”

Per capita personal income is calculated as the total personal income of the residents of a given area divided by the population of the area. Personal income includes wages, dividends, interest earnings, home rental and business income, and government benefits such as Social Security. In computing per capita personal income, BEA uses Census Bureau midyear population estimates.

The South Bend – Elkhart region includes Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph County in northern Indiana and Berrien and Cass County in Michigan; a geographic region with over 729,613 residents. The full release on the BEA website shows numbers across the country.

The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership is a collaboration of the economic development partners from 47 smart connected communities in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan. The Regional Partnership focuses on a long-term systemic approach to advance the region’s economy by aligning the efforts of various stakeholders around five key areas:

  • Educating a world-class WORKFORCE
  • Recruiting and retaining great TALENT
  • Attracting and growing new economy companies in complement to our remarkably strong manufacturing INDUSTRIES
  • Promoting INCLUSION and sparking opportunities for minorities
  • Helping ENTREPRENEURS thrive

The Regional Partnership seeks to unify and collaborate so that together, the communities across the region work together to achieve what cannot be done individually. For more information about the Regional Partnership, you can visit online at: