What is Bloomington like?

Bloomington, Indiana is home to an extremely diverse population with every major ancestry, nationality, language, occupation, religion, and world-view represented in some way. It is also home to Indiana University, which was established originally as a seminary in 1820 and has become the largest university in the state with nine campuses (no longer a seminary). With its 70+ language programs, dedication to diversity, and strong business school, IU has, no doubt, been the greatest factor in attracting so many people with such a variety of backgrounds to the city. It is not uncommon to find yourself out and about and notice that each person around you is from a different country, speaks a different set of languages, and looks nothing alike.

A Blooming Town

Known for its affection for the arts, nature, and community, the city hosts many fairs and events throughout the year, and a well-maintained park is never too far away. Favorite activities for many in Bloomington include hiking through one of the many nearby state parks, state forests, or national forests; bike-riding along scenic roads, the b-line trail, or across town through the mix of bike-friendly one ways; skating at either the roller rink or the ice rink; perusing the biweekly farmers market; bowling; spending some time at one of the many libraries; attending a concert at the park, a new play at the Bloomington Playwrights Project, or an IU sports game; and fishing at one of the large reservoir lakes in the area, originally constructed to solve the area’s longtime water supply problems. Popular yearly events held in Bloomington include the county fair, the Little 500 bike race, and the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts.

It should be no surprise that the locals appreciate the beauty of nature with such fondness — in 1818, when settlers from Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Virginia saw the flowers and green growth nestled away in our humble hills they remarked that it looked like a “haven of blooms,”  and then so named the place Bloomington. More than most cities, plants and trees are ever-present, awarding it the title of a “Tree City” for many decades. The brilliance of the fall foliage is often a serious attraction for tourists and newcomers, a vibrancy that complements well the strong look of locally quarried limestone seen in architecture throughout the city, but especially on the IU campus.

Opportunities for Growth

For obvious reasons, the city of Bloomington, which is the seventh-largest city in the state, is known as the “Gateway to Scenic Southern Indiana,” but it is also much more than that, having become a gateway to the people of the world. With the university and even local businesses attracting people from all over the world, there is always a new face. Although the attitudes of pride and independence are strong, especially among the homeless population and “townies” (lifelong residence), there are just as many truly humble individuals seeking someone or something that they can dedicate their lives to and fully place their hope in. This diversity in the population and the constant influx of newcomers has given great opportunity for sharing the good news.

However,  the diversity and constant influx has also given opportunity for strong stigmas to develop, only aided by the sense of pride. Despite the prevalence of education and a local economy bolstered by high tech and science heavy business, the sense of division continues to grow. The “Asians,” the “street people,” the “people on the Hill,” the “students,” the “townies,” the “professors,” the “moms”, the “artists,” the “musicians” — the list goes on and on. There tends to be a lot of self-segregation and prejudice, and unfortunately it is those who are most in need that suffer. Although there is a strong push for community service and volunteerism, there continues to be gaps where help and hope would be welcomed. One way that the city government has continued to show its support is in its attention to city-wide food security, which although bleak by some measures, is better than the state average and improving.

Religious Diversity and Division

The 2010 census showed the Bloomington population to be a little over 80,000, and, understandably as the county seat, it makes up the greater portion of the county’s population total, which was just under 138,000 people (which includes about 50,000 IU students).

When it comes to religion in Monroe county, the 2010 U.S. Religion Census estimated that approximately 17,000 people would call themselves “Evangelical Protestant” (12%), approximately 10,000 would call themselves “Mainline Protestant” (7%), and 270 would call themselves “Black Protestant” (0.2%). In total they estimated there to be 123 separate protestant congregations (one for every two miles of the county!). There are technically 43 different cities, towns, and unincorporated places within Monroe county, so if we divide 123 equally among them, it leaves each with about 3 different congregations. That is unfortunate…but the reality of this situation is far worse. The county really only has about 20 sizable communities, and one of them, Bloomington, contains 80 of the 123 congregations. It’s hard to find any area in the county that there are not two or more congregations gathering, functioning, and serving separately.

In Monroe county, they estimated approximately 10,000 people would call themselves “Catholic,” 225 would call themselves “Orthodox”, and 4,000 would claim another religion other than those posed. But by far, the greatest religious affiliation was the “Nones” who were estimated to be around 96,000 people (70%), an increase of 20,000 people since the year 2000.

Other Demographics

In the city there were approximately 31,000 households, and 11,000 families, of which 83% were Caucasian , 5% African American , 0.3% Native American , 8% Asian , 0.1% Pacific Islander , 1% from other ancestries, and 3% from two or more ancestries. Independent of ancestry, 4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino.

25% were married couples living together, but out of all the households, including households without married couples in them, only 17% of them had children under the age of 18. 8% of households had a female householder with no husband present, 3% had a male householder with no wife present, and a staggering 64% were non-families, about half of which (38% of the total) were made up of individuals and 8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was only a mere 2.76.

The median age in the city was 23.4 years (quite young!). 11% of residents were under the age of 18; 45% were between the ages of 18 and 24 (definitely a college town); 23% were from 25 to 44; 13% were from 45 to 64; and 8% were 65 years of age or older.

The 50.3% of the population claimed to be male and 49.7% of the population claimed to be female.