Cleveland’s urban core trends up slightly

The number of poor in the Cleveland and Youngstown MSA’s that live outside of the city proper has grown like wildfire over the last decade, according to a study I led at the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University.

57% of Cleveland metro’s poor live outside of the city proper, whereas in Youngstown the figure is at an astounding 74%. Overall, the 17-county region saw a marked swelling of the disadvantaged.

Cuyahoga County’s 2010 poverty rate (approx 18%) increased by nearly 6%. The increase occurred because the county at-large got poorer. In all, 80% of Cleveland neighborhoods had an increased poverty rate, as did 75% of Cleveland suburbs.

Select geographies where poverty spiked significantly (approx 10% or more) were examined in detail. Two of these geographies, the Cleveland lakeside neighborhoods of Edgewater and North Collinwood, showed similar trends: an influx of minorities, an increase in extreme poverty (<$15,000), and a decrease in middle-class households.

Suburban municipalities with poverty spikes such as Berea and Cleveland Hts. showed a little bit of a different picture; that is, little racial shift, but still a dramatic decrease in the number of middle class households. In the case of Berea, there was also a major decline in the total number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Another interesting finding is that the widening of the gap between the rich and poor at the national level held true at the neighborhood level. For instance, Edgewater experienced a 126% increase in households making over $100,000. The figure was 51% for North Collinwood. That said, it appears that the lakeside home owners did fairly well for themselves over the last decade. Getting away from the lake, well, that appeared to be a different story…

There were a few bright spots. The inner core neighborhoods of Downtown and Tremont actually saw a decrease in their poverty rate. The reasons for this include a major increase in the number of middle-class and affluent households as well as an increase in residents who have at least a bachelor’s degree (in Downtown the increase was from 31 to 44 percent).

Now, considering the general area of Cleveland and the surrounding counties appears to be crumbling, it begs to ask the question: is the inner core turnaround for real? And can it effectively echo out as kind of a donut hole in reverse that leads from a downtown revitalization to an inner city revival to a more general city proper rebirth?

Well, I am doing a working paper for the Urban Institute and found something interesting. Look at the graph below (see corresponding map for reference to geographies). It charts percent change in population from 1940 to 2010 for Cleveland’s 5-county region. Notice the jump in Downtown population. But look too at the Tier 1 neighborhoods category (i.e., defined as neighborhoods bordering downtown). You see how there is no dip since 1970, but rather a gradual decline in how many people are leaving. Even the exurbian-influenced 5-county trend line can’t claim that.

Why is this important?  Perhaps a revitalization has been under way for some time now, but it hasn’t been noticed because we so often focus on that forest fire that is population loss, as opposed parsing a little bit–and seeing a small but persistent positive trending of Cleveland’s core.

–Richey Piiparinen

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