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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cleveland Boasts the Least Economically and Racially Diverse Neighborhoods Among Major Metro Areas, According to New Study

Posted By on Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 1:29 PM

  • Photo by Joshua Rothhaas, Flickr Creative Commons
City Observatory on Tuesday released a study of America’s most diverse, mixed income neighborhoods identified by dissecting the inclusivity of race and ethnicity measured by the variety of household incomes in said neighborhoods.

Cleveland failed. Miserably.

Looking at the Racial and Ethnic Diversity Index (REDI), City Observatory divided the median neighborhood level of diversity by the metropolitan level of diversity to calculate how close a region comes to realizing its potential neighborhood diversity given its racial and ethnic composition.

For comparison, in San Antonio the metropolitan area has a REDI of 56.4 and the average resident lives in a neighborhood with a REDI of 53.1, which means the average neighborhood is about 94 percent as diverse (53.5/56.4 = .94) as the entire metropolitan area.

In contrast, Cleveland has a metropolitan REDI of 51.3, but the resident of a typical neighborhood lives in an area with a REDI of 26.0, meaning it is only 51 percent as diverse as the metropolitan area.

Although both Cleveland and San Antonio have similar levels of diversity overall, San Antonio is much more racially and ethnically integrated than Cleveland.

Our hyper-segregated city literally fared the worst of major metropolitan cities for the median diversity of income and race in neighborhoods matching the median demographics of the city as a whole.

Gaps between the metro-wide REDI and the REDI of a neighborhood directly reflects the degree of segregation within metropolitan areas. Coming in dead last shows that Cleveland's segregation goes further than just racial divides. The lived experiences of Clevelanders are completely segregated, and the diversity of our neighborhoods are not similar to the region en masse.

The Brookings Institute praised Cleveland on Monday for the potential to use Opportunity Zone incentives, recently announced by each state and approved by the federal government, that hope to inject equitable capital flow into low-income communities to catalyze business growth and wealth building. While there's hope on that front, there are also concerns for a race to the bottom, not the top.

"We are motivated to consider that goal in light of the fact that the Opportunity Zone program does not foreordain more equitable outcomes. Indeed, many observers—including at Brookings—have cautioned that the program could induce a 'race to the bottom,' where investments flow to the hottest markets most free from regulatory constraint, without attention to the long-term social equity implications."

Whatever optimism exists must deal with some undeniable facts:

74 percent of qualified Opportunity Zone residents in Cuyahoga County, which contains the city of Cleveland, are people of color (compared to 56 percent nationwide).

As of 2013, 36 percent of black households in Cleveland have zero net worth.

Income inequality between white and black residents in Cleveland has nearly doubled from a difference of roughly $12,000 per year in 2000 to $22,000 per year in 2016.
This April, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on a list of census tracts submitted to the state of Ohio for the Opportunity Zone economic development incentive that aims to stimulate private investment in "low-income, high-poverty" areas.

As we noted, some of the so-called "opportunity zones" are really just Cleveland's prime real estate sectors. These aren't underfunded neighborhoods in need of a facelift or lacking in development.

Included were the eastern portion of Ohio City, including Hingetown and the W. 25th Street corridor, and Tremont. On the east side, the selected tracts encompass University Circle and points north, the Opportunity Corridor and the so-called Health Tech Corridor.

In order for Clevelanders to be able to afford the rising housing costs, full employment must be achieved. Northeast Ohio is on its way, with 70 percent of working-age adults employed as of 2015. The difference between current employment and full employment (75 percent) translates to a need for roughly 123,000 more jobs in the region.

These jobs must also provide a livable wage. Only sixty-eight percent of Northeast Ohio families earned a living wage in 2016, and as we've already reported, eight of the ten most popular jobs in Ohio don't pay enough to cover rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment.

Racial unemployment disparities must also be eliminated, as unemployment rates for black Northeast Ohio residents in 2016 were nine percent higher than for whites. Similar gaps exist for Latinx residents, although as Two Tomorrows Fund states, limited data prevents a full analysis for Latinx residents or those of other races and ethnicities.

Most importantly though, Cleveland desperately needs to eliminate concentrations of poverty. According to Two Tomorrows Fund, the number of people living in areas of economic distress in Northeast Ohio increased by 31 percent from 2011 to 2015. One in 15 Northeast Ohioans now lives in an economically distressed neighborhood.

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