One of the ways we achieve our mission is to promote data accessibility and our fact sheets are one way that we do that. In 2017, the first time we released fact sheets with data on each state legislative district in Ohio, they were the first of their kind. This is the third time we’ve published fact sheets for every state and federal legislative district in Ohio, and the data included is designed to inform policymakers and advocates about the key issues facing Ohioans in every district. These fact sheets always serve as reminders that although we see disparities across Ohio, there is no part of the state that is untouched by poverty and its many health and social implications. Every single legislator in the statehouse serves constituents who are struggling to make ends meet and need a well-supported health and human services safety net.
The fact sheets include data on demographics, income, employment, poverty, food bank benefits eligibility, educational attainment, health, internet access, housing affordability and public benefits.
One thing to note about the new fact sheets – the data is from 2019 5-Year Estimates from the American Community Survey. What we know is that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a year that compounded socioeconomic issues, and we expect that with indicators like poverty, food bank benefit eligibility and housing affordability, conditions are now worse than the data in these fact sheets suggests. Consider the data in these fact sheets a baseline – we will continue to track and make data accessible as it becomes available.
With that said, I’d like to highlight some of the issues that have been especially pressing during the pandemic, and look at how some districts are faring around the state.
Food bank benefit eligibility
In Ohio, households are eligible for food bank assistance if they are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Even in some of the wealthiest districts in the state, there are still tens of thousands of people who are eligible for food bank assistance. House District 6 has the lowest percent of eligible people at 11.5 percent, but that still represents 13,670 people who could access a food bank. In some districts, the need is more concentrated.
Consider the data in these fact sheets a baseline – we will continue to track and make data accessible as it becomes available.
We know that around the state the pandemic has driven even higher levels of food insecurity than normal, as cars line up for pop-up food bank distributions and families rely on SNAP, Pandemic-EBT and other food safety net programs.
The pandemic has exacerbated the need for home-internet access, as households quickly had to transition to online or hybrid school for children, and remote work for many adults. Internet is also vital for job searching, applying for benefits such as unemployment, telehealth services, and registering for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. While there have been many efforts to get Wi-Fi hotspots to households as needed, some areas have large numbers of households without internet subscriptions at home. The map below shows districts where more than a quarter of households lacked a home internet subscription in 2019.
Housing is considered unaffordable if housing costs exceed 30 percent of household income. For families who are housing burdened, crises such as this pandemic pose an additional risk because they may be less able to weather a crisis when their housing costs are unaffordable. People who rent typically have higher housing costs as a percentage of their income than people who own their homes. In many districts around the state, as highlighted in the map below, more than half of households that rent lived in unaffordable housing.
Even in some of the wealthiest districts in the state, there are still tens of thousands of people who are eligible for food bank assistance.
To explore the data by Ohio legislative district for yourself, click here.