Concentrated poverty, racism keep Ohio sick
Posted November 19, 2018 in Press Releases
In 2016, 10 percent of Ohio neighborhoods were in areas of concentrated poverty -- that’s a twofold increase over 2000, according to new analysis from Policy Matters Ohio. Ohio is one of the nation’s sickest states, and a growing body of research shows that living in segregated, impoverished areas is bad for peoples’ health.
Policy Matters’ new report, “Building a healthy Ohio” includes an interactive map that shows levels of concentrated poverty by census tract.
In 2017, nearly 1.6 million Ohioans lived in poverty - more than 700,000 of them in deep poverty (with incomes under half the federal poverty level, $10,210 for a family of three in 2017). Last year, Ohio ranked 44th in well-being on the Gallup Sharecare Well-Being Index and 43rd in overall mental and physical health, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Ohio ranks 47th for how poorly the health of lower-income residents compares to higher-income residents.
“Poverty is stressful. Chronic poverty is toxic,” said Policy Matters Senior Researcher Amanda Woodrum. “Constant worry about making ends meet releases chemicals that make people sick. On top of that, low-income families are more likely to live in areas that are exposed to pollution, feel less safe, have lower quality housing, less green space and less access to healthy food.”
Black Ohioans are 2.6 times more likely to live in poverty than white Ohioans. People of color also face racism in everyday life that adds stress white people don’t experience, and they are even more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty due to longstanding racial discrimination. These factors take a toll on health. Death from heart disease is 30 percent higher for black Americans than for whites. Black Americans also have higher cancer death rates.
“From housing to education to transportation, every policy choice we make has health ramifications,” Woodrum said. “It’s time state officials include health equity impact assessments as a standard part of the policymaking process. We need to better understand how state laws impact our health, for good or bad, before we adopt them.”
Policy Matters recommends Ohio policymakers use three main economic levers to break down barriers to health and improve the quality of life for all Ohioans:
- Break the cycle of poverty by investing in education and opportunity for young people.
- Promote income security for Ohio families by increasing the minimum wage and access to public benefit programs.
- Target state investments in areas of concentrated poverty and maximize the benefits to the community through local hire policies.
“These are tough problems to take on, but they are fixable,” Woodrum said. “With good policy choices, Ohio can be a state where people – whether black, white or brown – or whether they live in a city, a suburb or rural area – can live healthy, happy lives.”