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09.29.2009 - Poverty in Ohio - Akron Beacon Journal article
One in 8 Ohioans is in poverty Census survey shows ranks of poor increase more than 28,000 in '08
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 by David Knox and Katie Byard
More than one in eight Ohioans fell below the poverty line last year, pushing the state's rate to 13.4 percent — the highest recorded in a decade, according to the latest Census figures.
The ranks of Ohio's poor swelled by more than 28,000 last year, according to the Census' 2008 American Community Survey, with nearly 1.5 million individuals and 288,964 families in Ohio reporting incomes less than the poverty level in the previous 12 months.
Ohio's poverty rate was slightly worse than the national average, ranking 19th among the 50 states. In the 2007 survey, Ohio ranked 18th.
This year's report is especially significant because it's the first measure of the impact of the recession, which officially started in December 2007, on local communities.
The survey, released today, includes data on counties and municipalities down to 65,000 population.
The results for Ohio's counties and cities were mixed, but the poverty rates generally deteriorated.
Of the 10 Ohio cities in the survey, six saw increases in poverty compared to 2007.
Youngstown fared worst, with one out of every three residents in poverty, followed by Cleveland,
with 30.5 percent.
But Canton was hit with the biggest increase by far — jumping to 27.3 percent from 21.1 percent in 2007.
Tom Thompson, a deputy director with Stark County Department of Job and Family Services, said he didn't need to see the report to know his county is hurting.
"In my 30 years in this business, I've never seen the number of people in need who have walked through the door of our agency," he said.
The number of people receiving food stamps surged to 50,615 by August — up from 42,338 in January.
Thompson said many of those seeking help are newcomers to the world of poverty.
"It's situational poverty," he said. "They've lost jobs, have reduced work hours."
Canton's unemployment rate in August was 13 percent, compare to 8.4 percent a year earlier.
Akron faring better:
Akron, which posted a jobless rate of 10.8 percent in August, has weathered the recession somewhat better. The Census report found 22.5 percent of the city's residents in poverty — down from the 23.6 percent the previous year.
Other cities showing similar small decreases in the poverty rate were Columbus, Dayton and Parma.
Increasing poverty wasn't limited to urban areas.
Twenty-four of the 38 Ohio counties covered in the report saw increases in poverty, including Stark, Portage and Wayne counties in the Akron-Canton area.
Ohio's worst county poverty rate — 19.4 percent — was found in rural Marion County, in central Ohio, followed by Toledo's Lucas County, with 18.7 percent.
Among the 14 counties reporting improved poverty numbers, Medina County had the lowest rate — 5.3 percent.
Summit also improved, reporting 12.2 percent of its residents below the poverty line, down from 14.1 in 2007.
The statewide increase in poverty wasn't unexpected.
Earlier this month, the Census Bureau reported median household incomes in Ohio was $47,988 in 2008, down about $400 from a year earlier and about $4,900 lower than the adjusted-for-inflation $52,923 high the census reported in 1999 — the peak of the economic expansion that decade.
But experts caution that today's report almost certainly underestimates the increase in poverty.
"The survey doesn't have the full impact of what has happened with the unemployment rate in Ohio," said Jung Kim, director of data services for Community Research Partners, a nonprofit research group headquartered in Columbus.
He sees the poverty rate going higher, once this year's job losses and reduced work hours are factored in.
Kim pointed out that the data for the Census report was collected throughout 2008 and the unemployment situation since then has deteriorated. Statewide, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate is up more than 5 percentage points, from 5.7 percent in January 2008 to 10.8 percent in August.
The disappearance of well-paying manufacturing jobs also translates into more poverty, he said.
"The composition of the economy has changed. Manufacturing jobs paid maybe $20 an hour or more," he said. "A lot of the new jobs are service jobs that are paying $9 and $10 an hour."
"You just have more people making less money."
Kim noted the poverty threshold for a family of four is about $22,000. That's more than a full-time, $10-per-hour job would generate.