University of Toledo study offers insight to city's poverty problem

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It takes one look at state data to see that Lucas County has a poverty problem. As many Toledoans live below the poverty line a new University of Toledo study is offering insight on the issue.

"[This] is what we've been trying to deal with over the last few decades, so we're not unique," researcher Sujata Shetty with the University of Toledo’s Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center said.

Based on 2017 data, researchers found that 26.5 percent of Toledoans live in poverty while 38.2 percent of the city's children face the same issue. Shetty says those numbers are almost directly related to a shift in the workforce and a limited number of high-paying jobs.

"People are working, but are still struggling," Shetty said.

UT's research also shows that a high school diploma is the highest form of education for 32 percent of Toledoans. To afford necessities, findings show a single adult should make more than $10 an hour while a single parent should make more than $22 an hour. Shetty says it's something that's just not happening for those with limited skills.

"You need better paying jobs," Shetty said. "You also need a trained workforce."

Researchers also found that nearly half of Toledoans rent their homes, and those who live in poverty spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

"When you're paying that much on a basic need you have much less flexibility for any other expense that you might have," Shetty said.

While poverty is everywhere in Toledo, researchers determined that council Districts 1, 3 and 4 are among the most affected.

"It's disheartening, but it's a study," District 4 councilwoman Yvonne Harper said.

Harper's district is the worst for unemployment, but she says jobs are there. She’d like to see more money and resources put toward connecting people to job training.

"The problem is, how do we get those people there? They don't have any transportation," Harper said. "A lot of them don't even have internet services."

To improve poverty rates UT's research recommends implementing "hand up" initiatives already used in other Ohio cities. Under those programs people are connected to training that gets them back to work with higher pay through community partnerships.