Keeping Indiana Backward

No one likes a smart-aleck who says “I told you so.” But–along with many other Hoosiers–I told you so.

The Indianapolis Star recently reported on one part of the economic fallout created by the culture warriors at the Indiana Statehouse.The headline confirms the findings: “Indiana politics make it difficult for tech industry to recruit, keep employees in state.”

The disconnect is growing between Indiana’s mounting socially conservative policies, which includes not only the near-total abortion ban currently stalled in court, but also a ban on trans girls playing school sports, and the tech industry’s increasingly vocal progressive workforce.

The tension is brewing as major employers struggle to recruit and keep employees in the state, a problem that is snowballing into a crisis for Indiana.

It isn’t just the tech sector. In the wake of the legislature’s hasty passage of the abortion ban in the wake of the Dobbs decision, a financial magazine quoted David Ricks, the CEO of Eli Lilly and Co.,reporting on requests he’d been getting  from employees wanting to transfer out of Indiana. (Other non-tech employers have voiced similar concerns, and  admissions officers at several of the state’s institutions of higher education expect fewer female applicants for admission.)

The tech workers who spoke with the Star following passage of the ban–ranging from those working in startups to employees of global software companies– reported that the abortion ban had prompted a number of coworkers to start looking for jobs in other states.

Some tech workers said the abortion ban would make it scary for them to start families because of concern that they couldn’t get the health care if they developed complications during pregnancies…

But for others, it’s not just the ban, but what it signals for the future for other social issues, such as LGBTQ rights.

As the article notes, tech workers are some of the most in-demand employees across the country. A significant number can weigh multiple job offers against each other, and a decision about where to locate will depend upon the attractiveness of the community in which they will be employed, as well as the company making the offer.

Jordan Thayer, a trans woman working as a consultant in automation for a software development company in Carmel, said she’s worried that she soon won’t be free to live her life as she wants and her family won’t be safe if they need pregnancy care.

She sees states like Tennessee proposing to ban drag performances in public and worries those laws will come to Indiana and make it hard for her to be out in public, she said.

So, long term, her family won’t stay.

“I don’t want to have to jump employers and change states in a hurry,” she said. “So, we’re looking now.”

Industry analysts warn that tech companies in states where abortion access and LGBTQ rights are restricted will need to offer remote work to attract some applicants. Those  (well-paid) remote workers will be lost to Indiana–they’ll pay taxes to the states in which they reside, and they’ll patronize the bars, restaurants and businesses in those states.

The article quoted a female CEO:

You want to live in a community that supports your values and your life style,” she said. “If you’re a woman and you have a choice between living in a state that provides you a great job and your reproductive rights versus a state with a great job and no reproductive rights, it’s easily a tie-breaker.”

It isn’t as though Indiana is  otherwise a sought-after place to live. We don’t have natural amenities, like mountains or lakes or great weather, and thanks to the gerrymandering that has protected a retrograde legislature unwilling to spend tax dollars to improve the quality of life, we have multiple other deficits.

As the article acknowledged:

Long before the Supreme Court became a super conservative majority that would reshape federal and state policies, Indiana has struggled with attracting top talent. Economists have pointed to a mix of reason, including lack of good schools, flat and largely landlocked landscape, poor infrastructure and sparse attractions and amenities compared to other states.

And so even when everything is equal: company brand, salary to cost of living ratio, amenities in the city, the social laws of the state is a tie-breaker, several tech workers said.

Indiana’s abortion ban may well be struck down for violating the religious liberties of Hoosiers whose religions permit abortion and prioritize the health of the mother, but–as the article makes clear–the ban is only one aspect of a legislative agenda that will keep Indiana firmly rooted in the 1950s–and on the “avoid” list of skilled Americans with other options.


  1. As a former IT administrator, I concur with the Professor’s take today. I left because of other reasons, including low pay, and the current culture war would keep me from returning. How can you not see it?

  2. But Republicans run a commercial on tv that says Indiana is # 1 in infrastructure, best in property tax, etc. I reminded my state senator that ASCE rated IN at #31 in infrastructure. Who do they think they’re fooling?

  3. As a former tech company owner I too saw this coming. We always struggled to attract qualified candidates from out of state, this just added more reasons not to come. Also as parents of a millennial couple thinking about starting a family we have told them when that day comes they shouldn’t plan on coming home to Indiana until the child is safely here. We are ourselves may be headed for the exit if this keeps going down hill.

  4. Note to author.

    Unless your viewers subscribe to the Star (which I don’t) they are unable to view articles there that you link to. Kinda stopped reading at that point.

  5. Unfortunately, due to Citizens United, your federal representatives and senators might not care what the citizens want. Your reps are getting paid to pass laws that benefit their donors who are not necessarily the citizens that they represent.

  6. You’re absolutely on point. I’m old enough to remember the 50’s and 60’s and it wasn’t a friendly place for women or LGBTQ individuals. Indiana has always been my home, but it would not be a state I would choose to come to for employment if I were looking and/or younger. And we don’t even need to add in education issues. You’ve touched on that before.

  7. So all young people who want to work in the tech industry are liberal on social issues? Uh, no.

    Businesses should just need to stay out of politics, period…with the exception of those policies that directly affect their businesses. You are always going to have plenty of people on both sides of these divisive issues. Nothing is to be gained from taking positions and turning off potential employees or customers.

  8. Paul, of course you will always have people on both sides of these divisive issues. It’s just that in Indiana one of those sides, by devious means (gerrymandering), controls the law making and uses that control to shove their religious beliefs down everyone’s throats. There is nothing for young people to gain here. Nothing.

  9. The Republican-led state government loves to tout Indiana as, “The State That Works.” I believe a more apt and accurate motto would be, “At Least We’re Not Mississippi… Yet.”

  10. The oligarchy and their media keep Americans fighting cultural wars so that we won’t focus on class issues.

    And, as Liz S. points out, Indiana lawmakers for the state and federal governments receive lots of campaign money from out-of-state dark networks. Journalists can’t even track those PAC dollars painting 23 states Republican.

    Lastly, I received an email from Indiana’s auditor yesterday bragging that “conservative policies” have created “very healthy reserves.” So much so that “future generations will reap the benefits.” I replied, asking why lawmakers aren’t investing those monies into the state today. A small tax reserve is prudent, but the absurd amount Indiana has accumulated stinks of over-taxation.

    Lawmakers need to return those excess tax dollars collected to current-day taxpayers.

  11. Off issue but…I question the coincidence of Trump’s increased legal problems and his ordering inspection of all of President Biden’s homes and offices and finding a few confidential Obama era documents in President Biden’s old locked office. Trump and his entire mafia had four full YEARS to go through all areas in the White House. Just sayin’

    Note to Terry Franzman: Because we do NOT subscribe to the Indianapolis Star is why we should read these references to articles we don’t have access to.

  12. I do not know about anyone else, but the description of the living conditions in Indiana,
    combined with the possibly growing social/cultural restrictions, sounds like the legislature
    is trying to develop statewide slum conditions!

  13. Indiana has been in an economic slump for so long, it’s hard to remember the “good times.” We haven’t been paying attention. Morton Marcus, who sometimes comments here, has told the good citizens of Indiana the real state of the state, economically, for years. It might just be that our reading scores have been so low, that we were unable to comprehend what he was saying.

    It’ll take a long time for Indiana to catch up, even if the legislature had an epiphany today and changed course. I still think the Dems need to blanket the state to get more people engaged and voting. The 75% who don’t vote are, I think, in that 65 – 90% of people who would like to see more progressive policies enacted. Just don’t label the policies progressive or Democratic.

  14. daleb. Thanks for the data and the remainder to never believe anything you see on a political ad.

  15. We saw this handwriting and left Indianapolis for Portland in Maine in 2015. Not only was this the first state where voters (not a judge) declared gay marriage legal, but we are very accepting of immigrants, minorities and our female governor has pledged to continue all rights to an abortion for Maine women. It’s a real climate change (in a good way) and makes it sad for us to see our Hoosier friends struggling with the backward right wing legislature you have. All I can say is come see Maine (and move here, too, if like us you are impressed and like lobster and freedom for all!)

  16. Very believable. As Purdue engineering graduates in the early 70’s, most were reluctant to interview at what we considered the red-neck states to the south.

  17. You’re right on point, Sheila. Indiana’s GOP candidates campaign on ‘faith, family, and freedom’, but they are openly hostile to others’ faiths, family structures, and freedoms. Of course this leads to brain drain for Indiana employers and an inability to retain a huge proportion of the college students we graduate here. It’s not just that we don’t compete for them financially. Our culture warriors at the State House enact freedom-limiting legislation that drives them away. When will we ever learn?

  18. Never fear! The state legislature has a solution to the difficulty in recruiting and keeping employees – eliminating the state income tax!
    “As we look to our long-term future, I think the goal for Indiana should be to totally eliminate individual income tax rates in the years to come,” Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle said Monday…The purpose of eliminating the income tax is to make the state’s tax climate more attractive, to recruit and retain more workers.

    No word about eliminating the services these taxes are supposed to fund, and whether or not those might be attractive to potential workers relocating here.

  19. Boy! Such a dilemma for Indiana Republicans who have gerrymandered themselves into power: how to appease the unborn-baby-saving Evangelicals and attract top talent that major employers need to be competitive when the state is not attractive to top talent because of Indiana’s socially -regressive policies. In the end, money always wins with Republicans, so if the inability of major employers and our universitites to attract top talent becomes severe enough, “saving unborn babies” will have to go, along with abusing LBGTQ folks and the other culture war priorities, like banning books by Toni Morrison and Michelle Obama. The “unborn baby savers” don’t realize that the only things Republicans care about is getting and keeping power and money. So, if can’t keep power because major employers can’t attract the best and brightest, and therefore the campaign donations dry up, things will change.

  20. 1960, Florida State. I met a couple, grad students, who drove out to FSU from the SF Bay Area to work as assistant professors. They described the culture of the Beats, predecessors of the Hippies, concerts, jazz, the Pacific ocean, mountains, etc. The clincher was the 24-hour classical music station: I was the morning classical DJ at WFSU-FM. Our station had few listeners. I wanted to be where a commercial classics station had a large audience, not in some benighted backwater of retirees, rednecks and Republicans. So I moved. It was natural. We want to be with our kind, right?
    I had spent a summer in Boston and Cambridge MA, and liked it for the classic movie houses and folk music, but the weather! Ick. I also spent June – November in Indianapolis. Also, Ick.

  21. I came to Indiana for work about 15 years ago — because it wasn’t Texas
    Did I make the right choice?

    I agree with Paul that not all IT people are Liberal, but very. very few, even those who enjoyed Trump’s theatrics and “stick to the libs” are really “I will impose my values on you” Reactionaries. The non-liberal IT people I have met are Libertarians.

    Also, you may know a many conservative IT people in Indiana Paul, but they are the ones who didn’t leave. In Chicago, the vast majority of the IT people were Liberal; in Indiana, it’s been more of a mix.

  22. 40th in Student Spending
    41st in Teacher pay
    35th Best place to have a baby
    7th Highest Hospital Costs
    41st Overall Health
    48th Quality of Life
    51st Teach Pay (including D.C.)

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