April 11, 2016 – In response to the recent news stories that listed Cleveland on a very unflattering Top 10 list of large US cities with high concentrations of poverty…here is the original study done by the Brookings Institute and the follow up story in The New York Times. In a nutshell, the study finds that Cleveland (along with Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo, Stockton, CA, etc.) has high pockets of poverty in its urban core, and this is of special concern to them (and us) as people who live in economically diverse neighborhoods have a much better chance of upward mobility compared to their counterparts who are “warehoused” in areas that have high poverty rates, which provides them with few role models or easy access to jobs.
Like every large American city, Cleveland has pockets of distressed areas, and here is one of the reasons we often end up on lists like this one: unlike many cities our size in the south & west, Cleveland never annexed nearby suburbs to grow the city’s tax base/population (think Houston, Colorado Springs, Phoenix, Columbus, OH, etc.) – read more on that here. When contiguous suburbs are acquired to become part of the city itself, it diversifies the demographics radically. If you put the footprint of Cleveland over the footprint of many cities who were not on this top 10 list and compared the numbers in just those geographical outlines (original city footprints before annexation) you would notice an apples to apples comparison that makes more sense.
However, we know this explanation doesn’t fix the problem. There are dozens of organizations who are working on these issues, predominately The Cleveland Foundation, the nation’s second largest community foundation. Starting with a March 12 caucus that collected input from community members, the staff & board have established strategic initiatives to address the challenges they see facing NE Ohio including: public education improvement, neighborhood development, youth development, arts advancement, economic transformation & healthcare needs.
In addition, region wide initiatives like The Fund for our Economic Future are also concentrating millions of dollars towards projects, ideas and people who are helping to provide upward mobility for a wide swath of people in NE Ohio.
If you get these kinds of tough questions from out of town recruits after they do a quick internet search on Cleveland, we’d be happy to meet with you and talk about how we mitigate these kinds of negative impressions of our region to help you attract and retain top talent in NE Ohio. Call us: 216.231.9311