Neighborhood data should inform the agenda of new Cleveland mayor: Alex Dorman


Guest Columnist Alex Dorman is an Associate Researcher at the Center for Community Solutions.

As a new mayor takes office in Cleveland, a crucial decision will be where to focus resources. The newly compiled data can help community leaders and residents understand the conditions facing Cleveland neighborhoods.

Cleveland is a city full of neighborhoods rich in history and culture. While residents clearly identify their homes as part of a neighborhood, community members and the agencies that serve them are often challenged to find good data and information specific to their part of town.

This is because neighborhoods are not considered designated geographic areas by most data sources.

At the Center for Community Solutions, we’ve compiled fact sheets for each of Cleveland’s 34 neighborhoods.

The good news is that the percentage of people living in poverty in Cleveland fell between 2016 and 2019, from 35.9% to 32.7%. But again, that only tells part of the story. The biggest drops in poverty have been seen in neighborhoods like Ohio City, Tremont, and Lee-Seville.

A deeper exploration of poverty rates and neighborhoods tells a familiar story of racism and redlining in old and old towns. The neighborhoods with the highest levels of residents living in deep poverty – defined as less than 50 percent of the federal poverty line – were Central, University, Kinsman, Buckeye-Woodhill, and St. Clair-Superior.

These are all neighborhoods on the east side of the city, all but one have a majority of black residents, and all have between a quarter and 45% of residents living in severe poverty. They were also all historically demarcated neighborhoods.

This goes against the Cleveland neighborhoods with the lowest percentage of residents living in extreme poverty: Old Brooklyn, Lee-Harvard, Edgewater, Jefferson, and Kamm’s Corner. With the exception of Lee-Harvard, these are mostly white communities, all located on the west side.

Of the 19 neighborhoods with higher poverty rates than the city average, 13 of them are located on the east side.

These fact sheets also provide important information on needs that have almost certainly been exacerbated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are based on the latest available data, collected in 2019 before the pandemic.

Some particularly surprising facts: About 38% of people in Cleveland were aware of the housing burden, meaning that more than a third of their income was spent on housing. In some neighborhoods – like Stockyards, Collinwood-Nottingham and St. Clair-Superior – almost half of all residents faced a housing burden.

Data shows that one in 10 residents of West Boulevard, Clark-Fulton and Goodrich Kirkland Park did not have health insurance. And about 40% of households in Kinsman, Fairfax and Hough did not have internet access in their homes before the pandemic.

Finally, about 85% of the children of the Central district lived below the poverty line.

Knowledge is power. Armed with this information, residents and civic leaders can fuel the incredible work being done to meet these needs even within the city.

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