The Center for Community Solutions recently released profiles for Ohio’s state legislative districts. We do this as a public service and make the profiles widely available. They include demographic, economic, education, and other data.
While we caution against comparing one district against another (sample sizes can be small and lead to large margins of error), we often compare a district’s data against overall data for the state. I always look at the House and Senate leadership profiles to see whether their districts match overall state data or if there are differences.
Let’s look at the new profiles for Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) to see what they might reveal, and how the data might relate to policy choices the Ohio General Assembly might be facing.
House District 93—Speaker Jason Stephens
Speaker Jason Stephens resides in Kitts Hill, Ohio which is located in Lawrence County, Ohio— the southernmost county located in the State of Ohio. As an aside, it takes just about the same time to drive from Kitts Hill to the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio as it does to drive from the City of Cleveland. When Community Solutions created Ohio County profiles in 2018, Lawrence County, was poorer, older, and residents were less likely to be employed than the state as a whole. The 93rd House district also includes all of Gallia and Jackson counties. These two counties looked very similar to Lawrence County when we last reviewed their data. The district is overwhelmingly Republican, having a 2022 Republican Political Index of 70%.
Poverty, education, and race in House District 93
Our profile of the 93rd House District in terms of age largely matches statewide demographics, but in terms of race, it is nearly all white with only small numbers of Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. When it comes to education, there are greater numbers of residents with less than a high school diploma or a high school diploma or its equivalent (e.g. GED) than there are residents with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. This might explain why poverty rates are higher in this district than the state as a whole, and why nearly 4 out of 10 residents would be income eligible to receive emergency food from an area food bank.
Labor force participation in the 93rd House District is lower than the state level labor force participation rates.
Workforce and labor participating in House District 93
It’s interesting to note that labor force participation in the 93rd House District is lower than the state level labor force participation rates. In past research, we found that this area of the state had higher disability rates, which could be holding down labor force participation. It’s also an area that has suffered greatly during the ongoing Opioid epidemic.
Housing in House District 93
The percentage of persons living in unaffordable housing in District 93—housing is considered unaffordable if the person is paying more than 30% of their income for rent—is similar to statewide averages with 44 percent of renters occupying unaffordable housing. In Ohio, 375,000 older adults over the age of 65 live in unaffordable housing, and older adults are more likely than younger people to struggle with housing affordability.
So as the older adult population grows in this district we would expect the issue of housing affordability to become even more pressing.
As the older adult population grows in this district we would expect the issue of housing affordability to become even more pressing.
Medicaid and SNAP in House District 93
Public benefits provide an important safety net in this district, particularly when it comes to Medicaid. Roughly one out of four residents in the district depends on Medicaid for their health insurance. One in five households receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP). I would have expected this number to be higher since the income data would indicate higher numbers of persons likely being eligible.
More than 75% of Ohio SNAP households had at least one person working at least part time in 2021—but their wages aren’t high enough to lift them out of poverty.
Senate District 12—Senate President Matt Huffman
State Senate President Matthew Huffman resides in Lima, Ohio located in rural Northwest Ohio and three and half hour drive from the district of Speaker Stephens. It comprises the counties of Allen, Mercer, Shelby, Champaign as well as portions of Auglaize, Darke and Logan counties. It is a solidly Republican district and, in the past, has been represented by Speaker Robert Cupp, Congressman Jim Jordan, and State Auditor Keith Faber.
There is a total of 93,322 persons in the district living in or near poverty.
Poverty and race in Senate District 12
The age breakdown of the Senate President’s district is nearly identical to the State of Ohio. But in terms of race, the district is overwhelmingly white and less diverse than the State of Ohio; the percentage of persons who are Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, or People of Color is roughly half that of the population as a whole.
Poverty looks a bit different in the district when compared to the state as a whole. Lower percentages of persons are living in deep poverty ($11,515 for a family of 3) but nearly the same percentage of persons living just above the poverty line. There is a total of 93,322 persons in the district living in or near poverty.
Education and workforce or labor participation in Senate District 12
One consistent driver of poverty is low levels of educational attainment.
While the district has higher levels of labor force participation than the state as a whole, it lags behind the state when it comes to levels of educational attainment. Residents of Senate District 12 are 59% less likely to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Compared to the state there is a larger share of persons with a high school diploma or equivalent, or an Associate’s Degree or some college; indicating a pool of persons who might be college eligible.
Ohio Senate District 7, for example, represented by Senator Steve Wilson, has college attainment rates almost three times as high as Senate District 12 and has thousands of less constituents living in poverty, and on SNAP or Medicaid.
Medicaid and SNAP in Senate District 12
Given the district’s poverty numbers, it’s not surprising that there are 47,636 persons who depend on Medicaid as their source of health insurance. There are over 13,000 households that receive SNAP benefits. Although as in Speaker Stephen’s district, there are likely hundreds of residents who are eligible for Medicaid and or SNAP and not enrolled.
It’s my hope policy makers will look at the data for their own districts and those of their colleagues and see that they have much more in common than they think and that they will work together to address some of Ohio’s most vexing problems.
As I reviewed the data for these two districts I thought back to a report my predecessor, John Begala, wrote for Community Solutions in 2016 called Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns “for all the cultural, social, and political forces that conspire to separate and divide “big city” and “small town,”… “Ohio’s small hub towns and cities share many of the same characteristics, problems, and challenges as its eight major cities.” This is even more true today. It’s my hope policy makers will look at the data for their own districts and those of their colleagues and see that they have much more in common than they think and that they will work together to address some of Ohio’s most vexing problems.
 Ohio Manufacturers Association, 2022 Ohio Election Guide, Page 179