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The Cleveland metro area ranks ninth among the 100 largest metros nationally for the percentage of residents living in concentrated poverty, according to an analysis released Thursday by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The Cleveland-Elyria metro includes Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties. (Brookings Institution data)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cleveland metro area is in the Top 10 nationally for the percentage of residents living in concentrated poverty, according to an analysis released today by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The Cleveland-Elyria metro - which includes Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties - ranks ninth among the 100 largest metro areas in the nation. Toledo, the only other Ohio metro in the Top 10, ranks third.

Concentrated poverty differs from the overall poverty rate. It looks at whether poor people live in communities where there are high concentrations of people who are also poor. People in poverty have a better chance at upward mobility if they live in economically diverse neighborhoods because they potentially have access to more opportunities, said Natalie Holmes, a research analyst in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program, who co-authored the report.

"There has been a ton of research for a long time suggesting the negative effects of being poor, " she said. "Over and above just being poor, being poor in a poor neighborhood adds additional complexities.

"We know that in neighborhoods in which high percentages of people are poor, there are higher crime rates, " Holmes said. "People who live there have poor physical and mental health outcomes. Schools tend to perform poorly."

The analysis found that 28.2 percent of Greater Cleveland's poor residents live in "extremely poor neighborhoods." The report classifies such communities as those being in census tracts in which 40 percent of residents live at or below the poverty line. If one includes census tracts in which 20 percent of residents live in poverty, then the Cleveland-Elyria metro has a concentrated poverty rate of about 63 percent.

A metro area was ranked based on the percentage of its residents living in communities where 40 percent of people were in poverty. The poverty line is about $24, 000 a year for a family of four. The McAllen, Texas, metro had the nation's highest concentrated poverty rate at 52.3 percent. Fresno, California, was second at 43.8 percent and Toledo third at 34.9 percent.

Locally, the Akron metro, which includes Summit and Portage counties, had a concentrated poverty rate of 17 percent. It did not place in the Top 10 nationally.

The report looks at concentrated poverty rates, which are based on Census and other government data, as far back as 2000. However, the report focuses most closely on two time frames. The 2005-2009 one includes the period before and during the Great Recession (officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009). The report also centers on the post-recession period of 2010-2014.

The analysis found that concentrated poverty in America is worse now than before the recession. Its findings include:

  • Concentrated poverty increased in two-thirds of the 100 largest metropolitan areas between the 2005 to 2009 period and the post-recession period measured
  • Fourteen million people live in extremely poor neighborhoods. That is 5.2 million more than before the recession and twice as many as in 2000.
  • The number of poor people living in concentrated poverty in the suburbs grew nearly twice as fast as in cities following the recession.

Sometimes such new concentrations of poverty were the result of large numbers of low-income residents moving to neighborhoods that had traditionally been more middle class. At other times it wasn't

"People are becoming poorer in place, " Holmes said. "This is one of the effects of the recession. People are staying where they are. Their incomes are just dropping."

Jo Ellen Corrigan, The Plain Dealer, based on Brookings Institution data

"Too often they are treated like island economies, " he said. "It requires an intentional effort to see that they are better connected.

"We must ensure that our job creation efforts reach into, and are connected with, these neighbors, " Whitehead said. "We have to ensure that our job preparation and job training is linking the rest of these communities to opportunities, especially better job access."

Whitehead said the Opportunity Corridor project could offer one of the best local examples of how to connect people in neighborhoods with high concentrated poverty rates to jobs. The boulevard is planned to run from East 55th Street at I-490 to East 105th Street in University Circle. Its path includes many of Cleveland's most economically distressed neighborhoods, included an area of Kinsman known as the "Forgotten Triangle, " because it has suffered years of disinvestment.

"Having so many of our neighbors living in concentrated poverty is terribly self-defeating for the entire region, and it's also immoral and incendiary, " he wrote in an email.

"It's why projects like the Opportunity Corridor are so important because, if done right, it won't just be an efficient roadway, " Abbott wrote. "It can also be an intentional catalyst of jobs for people who live in the distressed 'Forgotten Triangle' neighborhood. We need many more such efforts."



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