Four in 10 Cincinnati Children Live in Poverty, New Census Estimates Show — Well Above National Average

The Queen City's childhood poverty rate seems to have dropped slightly over the past five years but is still twice the national average.

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Nick Swartsell
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Roughly four in 10 Cincinnati children live in poverty, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau — a ratio much higher than the national average.

The estimates from the American Community Survey also show that roughly one in four children in Hamilton County are living below the poverty line, which is about $25,000 a year for a family of four. 

That's much higher than the nation's rate of just less than 20 percent. 

Though the way the federal government measures poverty has changed somewhat, the current rate in Cincinnati is below the rate it was in 2014, when 45 percent of people under the age of 18 lived in poverty here. 

Overall, more than one in four Cincinnatians lives in poverty, U.S. Census estimates released in September reveal — giving the city the fifth-highest poverty rate in the country among cities with more than 250,000 people.

Almost 40 percent of the city’s black residents and about 16 percent of the city’s white residents live below the poverty line.

The federal government’s poverty threshold is a bare-bones level of existence, most social service experts say, and many other Cincinnatians are at or below 200 percent of the poverty line — the level that starts to be sustainable for individuals to raise families. In 2016, more than 143,000 of Cincinnati’s residents lived at or under that threshold.

When the city's poverty and childhood poverty levels were at their peak, Mayor John Cranley campaigned partially on lowering those rates. He created the city’s Childhood Poverty Collaborative in 2015 as well as the Hand Up program, which provides $10-an-hour jobs to low-income residents. As of last year, that program has provided jobs to more than 500 Cincinnatians.

Cincinnati isn't the poorest city in Ohio, which has an overall poverty rate roughly one point higher than the national rate at 14 percent. Cleveland's poverty rate is 33.1 percent, the second-highest in the nation behind Detroit. Columbus, Ohio's capital city, has a poverty rate of roughly 20 percent. Toledo came in just behind Cincinnati with the sixth-highest poverty rate in the nation at an even 25 percent. 

Cincinnati's childhood poverty rate is also lower than some other cities and counties throughout the state. Cleveland's childhood poverty rate is almost 52 percent. Youngstown's is 57.5 percent. 

Like the nation as a whole, Cincinnati's unemployment rate has dropped to just over 4 percent — lower than Ohio's 4.6 percent. But wages have remained stagnant and most areas where jobs are growing — the service industry, mainly — do not offer jobs paying the same wages as industrial jobs the city and region have lost over time.

Last year, a study from left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio found that six out of the region's 10 most common jobs don't pay a living wage. In the metro area, the most common job last year was in the food preparation field, where the median annual salary is about $19,000 a year. About 32,000 people in the metro area do this kind of work. Other common jobs not paying living wages included retail sales (another 30,000 local employees), wait staff (20,000 regional employees), stock clerks (more than 17,000 employees in the region) and janitors and maintenance personnel (more than 15,000 workers in the metro area).

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