Another factor that has the potential of skewing the number is Conneaut’s Lake Erie Correctional Institution, whose 1,500 inmates are counted as part of the county’s population but would not have incomes. Those inmates have been in the numbers since 2000, during which time the spread between the state’s and county’s per capita figure has steadily increased, suggesting the impact has more to do with wages and increased dependence upon government payments than non-productive citizens.
Salling, who has not studied Ashtabula County specifically, says another explanation for the county’s poor economic showing is geography. Although the Census Bureau considers the county a part of northeast Ohio and the Cleveland metropolitan area, there’s no consensus about its best fit. The Ohio Department of Development lumps it into District XII, which includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Team NEO, the 16-county Northeast Ohio marketing alliance, has embraced placing the county in the Youngstown-Warren region, as does the Census Bureau when releasing regional data for northeast Ohio.
“It has a rural population with very little suburban connection,” Salling observes. “It’s not Lake or Geauga counties or Medina, which are rural but benefit from an urban county adjacent, or near, to them.”
Tuesday: Struggling to care for the county’s poor.