CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland is no longer the poorest large U.S. city, according to data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It was a dubious distinction that we had there for a couple of years in being the worst in poverty of any large U.S. city,” said Emily Campbell, the Chief Operating Officer for The Center for Community Solutions [CCS].
The nonpartisan think tank compiled 2021 census data and found Cleveland edged out Detroit, with a 29.2% poverty rate, compared with the northern neighbor’s slightly more than 30% rate.
“They’re so close that they’re within the margin of error and so there really isn’t a statistical difference,” Campbell explained. “But we are happy to see Cleveland improving in this measure.”
The two cities have each held the distinction of ‘poorest large U.S. city’ in recent years.
Campbell said being the second poorest large city, while still an undesirable position, shows progress in Cleveland.
“There are a lot of amazing things happening in Cleveland that are trying to help children overcome their disadvantages, that are trying to move workers into better paying and higher quality jobs. And we are starting to see the effects of those things in these numbers,” she said.
Other indicators demonstrate the need for continued work. At least 105,000 Clevelanders are living below the poverty threshold, which the Department of Health and Human Services defined as a household income of $23,030 for a family of 3 in 2022.
Cleveland also places last for large cities for child poverty, with close to half of children in the city growing up in poverty. The rate far exceeds the national average of 18%.
“Children are in poverty because of the amount of money that their families make and their parents earn. So the fastest way to get us even further up on these lists is to help parents earn more so they can support their families,” Campbell said.
She believes higher wages will help lift families out of poverty, whether from raising the state’s minimum wage, improving compensation with education and skills training or a combination of both.
“We still have a long way to go, but it’s nice to not be dead last,” she said.
The compiled research from CCS comes after Census data showed the county and state similarly lagging behind national averages.
The poverty rate in Ohio is 12.7%, compared to 11.7% nationally. In Cuyahoga County, 1 in 5 residents live below the poverty level.
CCS plans to release its full report Monday.
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