No one in Ohio has to be told the state took a pretty bad economic hit in the recession. Just how bad the fallout has been (and likely will remain for a while yet) is reflected in poverty figures reported separately this week by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies and by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
The profile of poverty presented in the community agency group’s 2012 State of Poverty report shows not only that some 1.8 million Ohioans already fall below the federal poverty level but also that the financial hold of many working households is tenuous. Consider the amount of income necessary to meet basic living needs — such as food, housing, health care and transportation — without assistance, and 35 percent of Ohioans do not meet this measure of self-sufficiency.
Roughly one household in four does not have enough savings, retirement or other assets to equal three months of living expenses, leaving them vulnerable to the unexpected, say, a job loss, illness or major expense. Among the poor, 42 percent are employed, and one in 12 has a bachelor’s degree.
For its part, the Cleveland Fed highlights the extent to which neighborhoods and metropolitan areas have experienced poverty over the past decade. No region has been spared the waves of economic crises. But the impact has not been even. Rising poverty from the hard times has concentrated more heavily in some areas than others.
In 2000, the study indicates, two metropolitan areas in Ohio, Cleveland and Toledo, were ranked among the 15 metro areas in the country with the highest concentrations of poverty, census tracts with the highest shares of people living below the federal poverty level. By 2006-10, Ohio had four: Cleveland ranked 4th; Akron, was 8th (up from 31st in 2000); Toledo, 10th; and Columbus, 14th.
Together, the new reports on poverty offer a grim perspective on the toll the economic downturn has taken in Ohio, both at the individual and household level and in terms of neighborhoods and cities as a whole. In a recovery that is still halting, the reports offer sobering indication of persisting distress and the risk of endemic poverty in a number of Ohio’s cities.