It’s time for a reality check.
For years Ashtabula County residents have been told things are going great in the local economy, bolstered by a plethora of win-win situations and abundant resources. Most working folks, however, scratch their heads and wonder if the county’s cheerleaders are talking about the same place where they live and work.
The truth is in the numbers. Ashtabula County has:
n The lowest per capita, per-family and per-household incomes of any Ohio county on the lakeshore. In 1969, the county ranked 46th in the state in median household income; by 1995, it had fallen to 66th;
A per capita that has consistently trailed that of the state and nation, and the gap is widening. In 1993, it was at 80 percent of the U.S.; by 2005, it had fallen to 74 percent;
The highest poverty rate of the same region;
The highest percentage of births paid for by Medicaid, 48.2 percent, of any lakeshore county;
The highest percentage of Medicaid payments to personal income, 6 percent, of any county north of Appalachian Ohio;
A rising unemployment rate – 8 percent in January, up from 7.5 in December 2007;
The region’s lowest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, a figure lower than the state of West Virginia, which ranks last in the nation.
Drive west to neighboring Lake County, and the per capita personal income is nearly $8,000 more, the median sale price of a house double that of one in Ashtabula County, 22.7 percent of the adults 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, and the unemployment rate is nearly two points lower.
Why? Why must Ashtabula County trail the rest of the region, particularly in per capita income?
“That’s the $64,000 question,” says Patrick Arcaro, director of the Department of Job and Family Services for Ashtabula County. “The story I got is that when Route 11 was built, everybody from West Virginia took it north because they heard that the lake was a beautiful place to live. If you drive down Route 11, that’s where all the poverty is — all the way down to West Virginia.”
Despite abundant resources, county’s per capital personal income proves lowest in the region
It’s time for a reality check.
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What it is, how it’s calculated
Determining per capita income is a complex exercise that — at best — is a mathematical expression of a moving target.
In its simplest terms, per capita income is, according to the Ohio Department of Development, “the income of a given area divided by the resident population of that area.” Sounds simple enough, but arriving at the figure is not.
- Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes Eavesdrop on conversations at the lunch counter, in the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Friday evening or around the sports bar on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re likely to hear some pretty disparaging remarks about the old hometown.
- Finding work after prison nearly impossible A portion of Ashtabula County’s unemployed can’t find a job because of their prior address – a prison cell.
- County part of Team NEO marketing efforts Ashtabula County is part of a 16-county alliance aimed at marketing the Northeast Ohio region to employers and business investors, many of have never heard of Ashtabula, let alone Mentor, Akron or Youngstown.
- Some people just don’t want a job Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.
- POOR BUT WORKING A winter wind blew across the parking lot of the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry next to St. Joseph’s Church in Ashtabula; the six adults lined up at the door turned their faces from the wind, toward the metaphoric concrete wall of the building.
- County's largest hospital feels the Medicaid pain Perhaps no one in Ashtabula County feels the pinch of subsidizing unemployed or underemployed individuals more than Philip E. Pawlowski.
- Crime & Drugs Inc. always hiring Some “unemployed” residents find crime to be their best source of steady income. Judge Richard Stevens of Western County Court says he noticed a 50-percent increase in the number of criminal cases handled by his court between 2005 and last year.
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