Columbus can’t really thrive when some are struggling to survive
Signs of prosperity are appearing daily in central Ohio with the arrival of the next construction crane or last business opening. Columbus is a powerful economic engine driving growth in the region.
And yet, all of this very real prosperity masks an uncomfortable truth about this place we all call home: some of our neighbors are being left behind, and a community cannot truly thrive when thousands of central residents are left behind. Ohio are struggling to survive.
This is nothing new here, and the gap between those with big and small incomes has only widened during the pandemic, as Dispatch reporters Mark Ferenchik, Mark Williams and Erica Thompson reported. last week in the “Divided Economy” series, available online at https://bit.ly/3yVrYCO.
“We are doing everything we can to get by”:COVID-19 has put some families on the brink as the rich prosper
Photographers Josh Bickel, Courtney Hergesheimer, Kyle Robertson and Fred Squillante also contributed to the series; designer José Enriquez; digital producer Joe Harrington; Editor-in-Chief Katy Smith; and editor Kelly Lecker.
The Dispatch has written many stories about the explosion of low-wage jobs here, poverty among low-wage workers, and the huge wage gap in Columbus. The 2017 “Dividing Lines” series showed the stark contrast between life on the east side of I-71 north of downtown and life on the west side of the freeway. This series is available online at https://bit.ly/34HMCbv.
Wealth and poverty exist throughout the city, but research conducted four years ago by Ohio State University for The Dispatch found persistent contrasts. They worsened even as the Columbus area recovered from the Great Recession faster than many other cities. And the contrast was most striking along I-71.
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At that time, a story in the Ferenchik and Rita Price series showed that “median household incomes in two census tracts less than 3 km apart can easily differ by more than $ 70,000. A plot in Clintonville, west of I-71 and north of North Broadway, has distinct, expensive homes, leafy streets, and a median annual household income of $ 100,284. In an area just east across the freeway in North Linden, northeast of Oakland Park Avenue and Karl Road, many homes are empty or have been turned into rentals. The median household income there: $ 27,702. “
They also reported that Columbus is one of the worst cities for neighborhood disparities and income mobility, which “flies in the face of the city’s image as a prosperous and welcoming magnet for young people. professionals, immigrants and the LGBT community ”.
They quoted Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto, who studies this subject and wrote the book “The New Urban Crisis”, in which he says that Columbus is second behind Austin, Texas, when it comes to segregation. economic – the concentration of the poor and the rich in separate neighborhoods – in US metropolitan areas of over one million people.
Income inequality:Despite a booming economy, many in central Ohio are struggling for low-paying jobs
Fast forward four years, one of which brought us the pandemic that crippled parts of the economy, and the income divide in Columbus has widened.
As the last Dispatch series pointed out, a typical recession affects most or all sectors of the economy, said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide.
“It has been a unique slowdown in the way the pandemic has unfolded,” he said.
This time, the damage was mostly concentrated in the service sector – restaurants, bars, hotels, travel, entertainment and government jobs, he said. Many in these sectors are poorly paid. Working mothers and people of color have been particularly affected.
These are people who want to work, and most worked until the pandemic robbed them of their working hours or jobs. Some have managed to string together two or three part-time jobs and still can’t make ends meet, as the personal stories of people who have shared their experiences with The Dispatch have repeatedly illustrated.
Some survive with the help of government or community programs, but the majority do not want handouts. They want jobs that pay a living wage and offer benefits.
Until that happens, this thriving community cannot really thrive.
Alan D. Miller is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch.