Salling’s analysis showed that, from 2000 to 2006, lower-income families increased while higher-income ones decreased. Those in the $75,000 to $99,999 range took the biggest hit, a loss of 25,043 families from upper middle class. During that same period, 21,866 additional families joined the $10,000 to $14,999 income class.
That’s a slide into poverty. For a single-family household, annual earnings of $10,212 or less is considered poverty level. For a family of four, it is $20,650 annually (2007 standards).
In 2000, “only” 12.1 percent of Ashtabula County individuals lived in poverty. The 2006 Census Bureau estimate is 16.7 percent. Nationally, the figure was 13.3 percent in 2006.
According the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006 American Community Survey, 10.8 percent of the households in Ashtabula County had less than $10,000 in income, and another 8.6 percent had between $10,000 to $14,999. Only 9.8 percent of Ashtabula County households had incomes of $100,000 or more.
“Ashtabula County has a lot of $8 to $10-an-hour jobs, and a lot of people making those incomes are living in Ashtabula County,” Bean says. “That pulls the numbers down in terms of per capita incomes.”
Clebone, the regional economic development director, feels the county’s numbers are pulled down by the higher-than-average number of senior citizens (over 65). According to the Ohio Department of Development, that figure is 14.6 percent of the population; nationally, it is 12.4 percent. Overall, 75.9 percent of the county’s population is between 18 and 65; nationwide it is 75.4 percent.
“One of the issues you have in Ashtabula County is there are a lot of retirees,” Clebone says. “Retirees tend to have a lower income, even if they have more assets.”
However, Lake County, whose median family income is nearly $20,000 more than Ashtabula County’s, also has 14.6 percent of its population at age 65 or older. And 13.8 percent of Geauga County’s population is 65 and older. That county, which also has a large Amish population, has a median household income nearly $25,000 higher than Ashtabula County’s.