Category Archives: Public Education

Ohio and the Fate of the "Big Eight"

The 2010 Census produced mixed results for America’s “legacy cities,” that is deindustrialized cities located primarily, but not exclusively, in the Midwest and in the Mid-Atlantic states. While east coast cities like Newark and Philadelphia actually posted population gains, Midwestern Rust Belt cities generally continued their long slide down in terms of population growth. This proved especially true in the state of Ohio, formerly a key manufacturing hub and once arguably the heartland of Industrial North America. For not only have Ohio’s major cities continued to shrink, their population loss actually ACCELERATED from 2000 to 2010. The same largely holds true for the shrinking counties that are home to Ohio’s seven withering major cities.

All of this leads to a central question: How long will it be before Ohio itself loses population? Much is at stake. Not just tax bases, representation in the house, and federal funding, but national relevance. With the decline of the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region, Ohio’s internal decay is even more of a pressing issue.

The state has been traditionally known for its “Big Eight” cities: Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Canton, and Youngstown. All of these cities, save the capital city of Columbus, owe their existence to the explosion in manufacturing in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Cleveland was an early leader in automotive production before diversifying into other manufacturing sectors as the twentieth century wore on. Youngstown was a steel center, known as “America’s Ruhr Valley.” Dayton’s manufacturing muscle grew on, among other things, automobiles, foundries, and printing plants. Toledo was also known for auto manufacturing and the glass industry.

Suburbanization in the post-war era and deindustrialization hit Ohio’s cities as hard as any in the nation. From the early 1970s to the mid 1980s, Ohio’s manufacturing employment dropped by nearly 20 percent. Simultaneously, Ohio’s metropolitan areas decentralized. Seven of the Big Eight began to crumble, albeit at various speeds. The deterioration in the economic and social fortunes of Ohio’s cities through the 1980s has been well covered in a variety of venues. What has been less mentioned is that, unlike east coast legacy cities, the decline of Ohio’s major cities accelerated from 2000 to 2010. And according to 2012 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the decline continues.

Figure one is a comparison of the change in population for seven of Ohio’s Big Eight from the 2000 to 2010 census.

Figure 1

Every one of these cities experienced a larger decline in 2010 than they did in 2000. Cleveland’s collapse is particularly shocking, as are Dayton and Youngstown’s double-digit losses. Even Akron, somewhat of a success story, experienced a surprising drop in 2010. After seeing a substantial improvement in its population numbers in 2000, the city registered its largest population decline since 1980 in the year 2010. The 2012 census estimates look equally dismal: Only one out of 15 Ohio cities with a population of over 50,000 managed not to lose residents. Two of Ohio’s cities (Cleveland and Youngstown) were among the seven fastest shrinking cities in the entire nation during that period. Youngstown was the country’s fastest shrinking city.

Counties containing a major shrinking city are on a similar path of continued contraction. With the exception of Stark and Summit in 2000, accelerated population loss has become the norm, as figure two below shows.

Figure 2

(Chart shows negative population loss. Negative numbers are positive)

Lucas County, Mahoning, and Cuyahoga experienced large decreases in the period from 2000 to 2010. Cuyahoga, home to the second largest city in the state, is the fastest shrinking county in the state. Mahoning County in particular faces a troubled future. Between the middle of 2008 and the middle of 2009, Mahoning had more deaths than births. This is termed “negative natural increase.” Once a county experiences a cycle of negative natural increase, it is likely to re-enter the cycle again at some point.

The population decrease of the state’s major cities and counties is almost certainly a prelude to state population loss; a major sign is the disappearance of young people, a problem especially centered in counties housing the state’s largest cities. Cuyahoga County’s under-18 population dipped 16 percent between 2000 and 2010. In fact, Ohio’s drop in people under 18 was the third worst in the nation.

Ohio’s manufacturing employment wasn’t just hard hit during the seventies and eighties. At the beginning of the century Ohio had nearly a million manufacturing jobs. A little over a decade later just under 350,000 of those jobs remained. Manufacturing is the crucial piece of the economic puzzle in Ohio. And as the “recovery” begins to pick up steam, especially for automobile production and pipe production for energy exploration, manufacturing will continue to be a centerpiece of the state domestic product. However, it’s unlikely job growth will ever return to the numbers seen in the nineties, much less the seventies. Also present is a significant skills gap, particularly in distressed urban communities, between what modern manufacturing employers are demanding and what job seekers possess. Lost manufacturing jobs are particularly troubling considering that average compensation in manufacturing for the year 2009 was nearly $68,000, while non-farm, non-manufacturing sectors averaged only about $42,000.

As important as the decline in manufacturing jobs is for the state, there are other negative long-term indicators. According to the Brookings Institute, “Ohio underperformed the national average on employment in every industry from 2000 to 2008. Ohio’s shrinking industries are declining faster than its growing industries are gaining ground.” There have been bright spots, like the creation of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown or the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland-a green worker co-op that’s part of a highly innovative “Cleveland Model.” The model partners community co-ops and anchor institutions (like universities and hospitals) with a large local footprint that could utilize services in their surrounding communities. Still, it’s unclear how long these initiatives will take to have a measurable impact. And time is not on the side of the “Big Seven.”

The term Big Seven denotes the absence of the capital city of Columbus. Unlike the others, Columbus has seemingly prospered while urban flight and deindustrialization ate away at her brethren. Columbus’ diversified economy traditionally buffered it from the extremely cyclical nature of Ohio’s manufacturing cities. And while sprawl devastated other cities in the state, Columbus annexed outlying areas, withholding the extension of water lines to areas that might resist incorporation into the city. Annexation disguises the low-density nature of the city. The urban core of Columbus has been hit hard by foreclosure and disinvestment. The near east side and south side are also experiencing disinvestment, yet, Columbus is drawing people from all over Ohio. It is the only one of the Big Eight with a growing population.

Franklin County, however, which Columbus dominates, has a child poverty rate of almost 27 percent.[vii] For several years child poverty in Ohio has eclipsed the national average; approximately one in four children live in poverty. Black child poverty in Ohio is three times higher than all other child poverty. The percentage of black children living in poverty in Ohio’s Big Eight is much higher than the state average. In 2003, over 40 percent of black children in Youngstown, Toledo, Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Canton lived below the poverty line. In 2011, that number was over 50 percent in Toledo and around 56 percent in Youngstown.

Ohio is now very likely to join Michigan as the only other state in the union to have lost population. While recent census estimates show a very slight uptick in growth, long-term trends are more than enough to reverse this. Overall population growth is trending in the wrong direction. Ohio’s metropolitan areas are no closer to resolving long-standing conflicts between city and suburb; instead, shrinking counties are home to a polyglot of municipalities fighting over ever-decreasing economic pies. The federal government has long been an absentee voice in the realm of urban issues, so what is being done at the state level? States have toolboxes that can hinder or help cities. Ohio’s poor record on fostering municipal cooperation, encouraging sprawl and green field development, as well as failing to invest in twenty first century transportation infrastructure, is more than discouraging-it’s akin to promoting spatial suicide. Since Ohio’s 2005 tax cut-that largely benefited top-earners-job growth in every sector has trailed the national average. From 2005 to 2009, Ohio eliminated its corporate income tax, instead establishing a “commercial activity tax” in 2010. Unfortunately corporations are multi-state enterprises and are likely to invest such tax breaks in places other than Ohio, which is apparently what happened. Since 2005, only three other states have worse job growth rates.

Ohio’s budget for 2014 and 2015 also features income tax cuts (mostly benefiting the wealthy, again) and an increase in the regressive sales tax. Tax cuts up to $250,000 for small business owners won’t add up to much of a stimulus when most small business owners make under $30,000 a year. Estate taxes, the majority of which fund local government, are now gone. Distressed cities in Ohio will likely have to enact further reductions in services, which in turn will make them even less desirable places to live.

Ohio is in crisis mode, whether the state government realizes it or not. Seven out of Ohio’s eight major cities are in various states of decline or even collapse. The economy is moribund on many levels. The decline of manufacturing employment is hurting working class families at a time when few opportunities for college graduates are driving more young people to the Sun Belt and elsewhere. As the Greater Ohio Policy Center points out, “Ohio’s seven largest metro areas are home to 71 percent of its population, 76 percent of its jobs, and 80 percent of the states’ gross domestic product.” With accelerating blight and population loss, metropolitan fragmentation, and a disconnected state government more interested in restricting access to abortion than in increasing access to education and jobs for low-income households, Ohio faces a race to the bottom of states in terms of opportunity and quality of life.

–Sean Posey

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A Sad Ending for the Girlfriends Club

This best place to buy cialis online short film, produced by some Plain Dealer reporters, was featured at the Cleveland International Film Festival two years ago. It told meds canadian pharmacy the story of a Giddings Elementary School teacher Sherida Freeman and a club she started for fifth grade girls aimed at reducing fighting. The Girlfriends Club was a tear jerker. Freeman financed the high tea at the Ritz Carlton partly out of her own pocket.

The Girlfriends Club from Dale Omori on Vimeo.

I just cialis generic wanted to share this because my boyfriend recently brought it to my attention that this school was closed, this is roughly two years ago now so it’s not news. Freeman was among 643 teachers who was laid off at the time. I’m not sure whether she was offered her job back. If anyone knows, please respond in the comments.

I wonder what happened to those girls and to the teacher.

Giddings was in the Kinsman neighborhood. I couldn’t find much about it, other than an USA Today report saying it had some of the highest levels of air pollution of any school in the country.


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'Smartest' US Cities Have a Rusty Tint


According to a June 6, 2012 piece by Richard Florida published by The Atlantic Cities, a recent analysis by Lumosity shows that more than half of the 25 smartest cities in the United States are situated in the Rust Belt. In order to calculate the smartest metropolitan areas, the article indicates that the following research methodology was utilized:

“…scientists at Lumosity tracked the cognitive performance of more than one million users in the United States on their games, mapping them across U.S. metros using IP geolocation software. Individual scores were recorded in five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving.The data was normalized into a basic brain performance index controlling for age and gender. Only metros with more than 500 observations were included. The data cover 169 metros.”

Based on the research, below is the list of America’s 25 brainiest metros, according to Lumosity’s metrics, with the city’s ranking in parentheses:

  • Lafayette, Indiana (2)
  • Madison, Wisconsin (4)
  • Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Iowa (6)
  • Johnstown-Altoona, Pennsylvania (8)
  • Champaign & Springfield-Decatur, Illinois (9)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota/Wisconsin (10)
  • Rochester, New York (13)
  • Lansing, Michigan (16)
  • Burlington-Plattsburgh, Vermont/New York (18)
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (19)
  • Syracuse, New York (20)
  • La Crosse-Eau Claire, Wisconsin (23)
  • Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York Pennsylvania (24)
  • Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts (25)

According to Daniel Sternberg, who developed the brain performance measure,

“The result is not driven principally by college students. “Since our analysis controlled for age, the reason they score well is not simply that they have a lot of young people,” said Sternberg. “Instead, our analysis seems to show that users living in university communities tend to perform better than users of the same age in other locations.”

An informative map (see below) prepared by the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute depicts the results of the Lumosity study graphically. It clear shows concentrated strength throughout much of the Northeast, Great Lakes, and Midwest, with other areas scoring well along the Pacific Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, the I-35 corridor of Texas, and those larger metropolitan areas of the Rocky Mountain region.


The good news that could be derived from this report is that the “brain drain” may not be quite as bad as first thought. However, this represents a snapshot over one period of time. A more reliable long-term measure will be when this data is spread out further so trends can be observed.

The results also present an excellent marketing and public relations tool for many economic development agencies in the Rust Belt. Here’s is a weblink to one such press release from Greater Lansing’s LEAP (Lansing Economic Area Partnership).

Congratulations to all those cities who scored well in this report. As a graduate of Purdue University in Greater Lafayette, Indiana and a resident of Greater Lansing, Michigan, I was very pleased to see the data show what I already knew about these two terrific cities of the Rust Belt.

More details about the report and the story itself are available at Atlantic Cities.

Rick Brown

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Midwestern Universities Wooing Chinese Students



Michigan State University in East Lansing has been a steady leader among public universities in the United States for sending its students abroad for a portion of their academic studies. On the flipside, the university along with seven other Big Ten universities has been the lucky recipients of a growing influx of international students, particularly undergraduates from China in the past five years. According to the Open Doors 2011 report from the Institute of International Education, of the 25 universities in the United States with the largest international student population, eight are from the Big Ten (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan. Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin).

China has become the primary source of new international students since 2005, as the nation’s economy has boomed and its citizen’s wealth has grown. Part of the reason for this influx beyond increased wealth is due to the fact that only 18 percent of students are admitted to Chinese universities. The growth from China alone has been substantial enough to warrant Michigan State to open a satellite office in Beijing, China in 2008.

For Michigan State University, the rise in the international student population is fortuitous because it’s taking place at a time where the pool of potential Michigan resident students is starting to decline. As a result, the international students are filling a void and not squeezing out home state students. Below is a chart based on annual data from Michigan State’s Office for International Students and Scholars which shows the meteoric growth in the Chinese student population (undergraduate and graduate) at Michigan State. The greatest proportion of the growth in recent years has been in undergraduate students, rising from just 92 in 2006 to 2,217 in 2011.

Source: MSU Office for International Students & Scholars

In the communities around Michigan State’s campus, there has been a noticeable influx of new residents from China, many arriving with a great deal of disposable income. While the university requires all freshmen to live on campus, students are free to live where they choose after that first year. Based on cursory observations and reports from area property owners, the largest concentration of students from China appears to be occurring just to the northeast of campus along the Grand River Avenue (M-43) corridor. However, they are not alone, as a substantial number of relatively recent newcomers to the United States now reside in many parts of Greater Lansing from India and several other Asian nations.

Recognizing the growing and fairly concentrated Chinese student population, a number of commercial businesses along an approximate two-mile stretch of Grand River Avenue (M-43) now include Mandarin lettering in addition to English on their signs. Furthermore, some of the international students themselves are opening new businesses along this commercial corridor and in nearby areas. Automatic teller machines on campus and in the surrounding community now offer transactions in numerous languages (in some cases more than eight), including Mandarin. In an effort to reach out to the area’s growing Chinese community, Meridian Township, which borders the campus, recently appointed a Michigan State University student-local resident with family ties to China to a seat on the community’s Economic Development Corporation.

According to a report from the Association of International Educators, foreign students attending Michigan State University contributed nearly $185 million to the Greater Lansing economy in 2010, of which almost $90 million was spent on living expenses and dependents. Needless to say, spending like that gets noticed quickly.

Public school districts near Michigan State’s campus have also benefited from the growth in the international student population, as many of these students bring their spouses and/or children with them to the United States. Since Michigan’s funding formula for school districts is based on student head counts, any increase in class attendance is important to a school district’s bottom line.

This author can personally attest to the substantial benefits derived from a more diverse and inclusive community. It can be observed in new friendships, more cultural and religious offerings, dining  and recreational options, educational opportunities, travel options, architectural influences, and in the area’s enhanced entrepreneurial spirit. Freshman year at Michigan State, my son’s dormitory roommate was from South Korea. As a result, my son was afforded an amazing opportunity to befriend someone from the opposite side of the planet and learn more about his culture,while sharing the same about America.


Will this student population boomlet from China continue into the foreseeable future? One would imagine so, barring any international disputes or incidents taking place that might sour relations. As a result, collegiate communities throughout the Rust Belt could and should be able to reap the cultural, societal, and economic benefits from Chinese and other international student population growth for some time to come. I cannot think of a better way to build friendships, improved understanding, and trust between the amazing array of societies and cultures on this planet.

— Rick Brown

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Urban Schools and the of Challenge Retaining Middle-Class Residents

When I bought a house in the city of Cleveland, one of the constant questions I faced was: “but what about the schools?”

Failing public schools are a problem in urban areas throughout Ohio and in more broadly throughout the country. And that is hindering efforts to repopulate even some of the more fashionable city neighborhoods in places like Cleveland. That was the basic premise of the thesis I just completed for my master’s in urban planning.

Using original research, I explored the extent to which failing public schools undermine neighborhood stability by encouraging residential turnover among middle-class residents. I thought the readers of this blog might be interested in the results.

The Cleveland Public Schools are struggling and they have been for decades. Standardized test scores and graduation rates are inexcusably low. The district is more or less a last resort for families without options. It is highly segregated–70 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic–and terribly poor–every school in the district has a poverty rate exceeding 60 percent.

A great body of education research suggests that schools with such demographics are very unlikely to succeed. Schools that have a mix of income levels, those below 40 percent poverty, are much more likely to be effective.

My research looked at the issue of retaining middle-class Cleveland residents through the scope of education. What would it take to convince middle-class people to raise children in the city? My underlying assumption is that without middle-class buy-in, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will never perform adequately and without adequate performance from the school district, the city will never be truly vibrant.

Here is a summary of the findings from the abstract:

Original research bore out common assumptions about the impact of poorly performing local schools on middle-class tenure in the city. A survey of 271 Near West and Downtown Cleveland residents revealed an overwhelmingly negative perception of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Prospective parents almost universally reported they do not perceive the urban school district to be a viable option for their future children. Only 9 percent reported they would remain in the city and send their children to a public school, given the opportunity. This attitude was reflected as well in the neighborhood’s parents, a clear majority of which (65 percent) reported their children are enrolled in private schools.

It is easy to see how this negative perception of the public school system could hinder residential and neighborhood stability. About 72 percent of those surveyed said they either “had not reached the stage in their life for children,” or had children that have not reached school age. A total of 62 percent of this population said they would move to a suburban district when the time came, or that they “weren’t sure” whether they would move or stay.

A supporting real estate analysis, although limited in scope, showed that 66 percent of neighborhood residents who sold homes valued at $100,000 or more relocated to a suburban municipality.

These results have important implications for these four “emerging neighborhoods.” Advocates of urban revitalization in Cleveland should be focused on helping ensure the local school system is considered a viable option among middle-class residents in order to prevent residential turnover and the resulting decline in real estate values.

The full report is available at

Also, in a coming post I will share the story of a group of city parents who have banded together to form their own charter school.

-Angie Schmitt


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Race and Inequality in Youngstown, Part 1

Rust Wire contributor Sean Posey has written a response to the piece we posted earlier in the week on the city of Youngstown’s continuing struggle with crime. Here is the first of two parts:

The recent high profile shooting of an elderly couple leaving church on Youngstown’s south side—the second such murder of a parishioner at Saint Dominic’s this year—has rocked the city. The usual calls for greater police crackdowns and the typical mystified responses from the public and the media make it clear that few people understand why exactly a cycle of crime is playing out in our inner cities. The only explanations usually given involve the same stories of the loss of manufacturing jobs and the closures of the mills in the 1970s. Almost none address the fact that Youngstown’s—and indeed almost every ghetto in the Rust Belt—has largely been created by economic structural changes that have disproportionately affected African Americans and by deliberately exclusionary policies designed to reinforce segregation.

In the 1950s urban renewal projects changed the face of entire sections of the city of Youngstown. African Americans found themselves time and again in front of the wrecking ball as highways and industrial parks bisected or obliterated their neighborhoods. Those displaced persons often found themselves shunted into public projects or into older neighborhoods where they could not get home loans—or if they could find an older home to buy, they could not get home improvement loans. Forcefully centralizing low income populations increased blight and started the process of economic and racial segregation. The term for this is concentrated poverty and it  is a key issue in inner city areas. It is almost always connected to racial segregation and its definition is a given census tract where forty percent of the population is below the poverty line.

During the 1960s, 27,000 people, nearly all of them white, left the city of Youngstown. At the same time the use of “redlining” and other tactics in the mortgage industry and among neighborhood groups made sure African Americans were kept out of the suburbs and other white neighborhoods. By the year 2000 the city of Youngstown was almost half African American while the African Americans in neighboring Boardman Township made up only about two percent of the population.

Will someone take some more pictures of Youngstown? We're running out of photos to run.

Will someone take some more pictures of Youngstown? We're running out of photos to run.

When light-manufacturing jobs began to replace heavy manufacturing, it was outer ring and suburban areas where industrial parks and machine shops often located—beyond the reach of inner city African Americans and outside of the informal job system where word of mouth and connections can get you a job. Additionally, in the ever-important trade and apprenticeship programs discrimination proved rampant. As heavy manufacturing employment nosedived—8,000 steel jobs alone disappeared in the 50s and 60s—low skilled African Americans were hit the hardest. Between 1970 and 1990 the black male labor participation rate dropped from seventy one percent to thirty two percent.

Schools too quickly segregated by race. As early as the 1960s schools on the city’s south side—especially the troubled Oak Hill neighborhood—were predominately African American and predominantly low income. By 1990, minority enrollment represented sixty five percent of Youngstown city schools student body, while in the suburbs of Austintown, Boardman, and Canfield, minority enrollment accounted for less than five percent of the overall student body.

In part two I will discuss what effects decades of disinvestment, segregation, and economic collapse have had on Youngstown’s inner city neighborhoods and how that relates to street crime.


Filed under Crime, Headline, Public Education, Race Relations, Real Estate

Young, Broke and ‘On Your Own’ in Ohio

The Akron Beacon Journal is carrying an interesting editorial about the economic status of young people in the Buckeye State.


In the article, Amy Hanauer, executive director of the liberal, Cleveland-based think tank Policy Matters Ohio, argues that high college costs, declining middle-class wages and increasing basic costs are disproportionally squeezing Ohio’s young people.

“Skyrocketing costs make it difficult for students to complete their degrees, employment has become less stable, earnings have declined steeply for workers without a four-year college degree, and young adults are increasingly saddled with debt,” she writes, with co-author Nancy Cauthen.

Who’s to blame for young Ohioians’ declining fortunes? According to Hanauer the culprit is loss of manufacturing jobs and an “unraveling of the social contract.”

“All the hallmarks of a middle-class life — a college degree, a home, family security — are more expensive. Two-thirds of four-year college students in Ohio graduate with student loan debt averaging $24,000. Ohio renters ages 25 to 34 spend a third of their incomes on housing. The average annual price of full-time center-based child care for two preschool-age children in Ohio is nearly $17,000.”

The country is moving in the right direction, however, with the health care bill, which included a clause that eliminates subsidies to banks that were part of the federally guaranteed student loan program, Hanauer writes. That money–$36 billion–will be reinvested in need-based financial aid for low-income students.


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