The Highland County Press

The United Way’s ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report released this week presents a grim reminder for many Highland County – and Ohio – families.

Statewide, the ALICE report indicates that 40 percent of households are living in poverty or struggling to make ends meet.

In Highland County’s 16,696 households, that number is 48 percent.

According to the report at

Ohio is perhaps best known as the manufacturing center of the country, as well as the home of the Cleveland Clinic and site of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Buckeye State is also home to many health and finance companies, and it hosts a wide array of Fortune 500 corporations including Procter & Gamble, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and Wendy’s.

Ohio is a geographically and economically diverse state, stretching from the big metropolitan areas along Lake Erie to the rural foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Yet, despite its abundance of coal and steel, its tourist destinations, and its diverse economy, Ohio also contains sharp disparities in wealth and income. What is often overlooked is the growing number of households that earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but are unable to afford the state’s cost of living.

Traditional measures hide the reality that 40 percent of households in Ohio struggle to support themselves. Because income is distributed unequally in Ohio, there is both great wealth and significant economic hardship.

That inequality increased by 21 percent from 1979 to 2015; now, the top 20 percent of Ohio’s population earns 50 percent of all income earned in the state, while the bottom quintile earns only 3 percent.

In 2015, Ohio’s poverty rate was 14 percent, the same as the U.S. average, and the median annual household income was $51,075, below the U.S. median of $55,775.

The median total household income in Highland County, according to the most recent U.S. Census data is $39,858. The per-capita income is $20,240. Both numbers are well below the state averages.

According to the ALICE report, state’s overall economic situation is more complex. While unemployment is lower in Ohio than it is in many other states, workers increasingly face a changing employment landscape where higher-paying jobs have been replaced with lower-paying jobs.

None of the economic measures traditionally used to calculate the financial status of Ohio’s households, such as the Federal Poverty Level, consider the actual cost of living in each county in Ohio or the wage rate of jobs in the state. For that reason, those indices do not fully capture the number of households facing economic hardship across Ohio’s 88 counties.

A household that is Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed is a household with income above the Federal Poverty Level but below a basic survival threshold, defined here as the ALICE Threshold. Defying many stereotypes, ALICE households are working households, composed of women and men, young and old, of all races and ethnicities, and they live in every county in Ohio – urban, suburban, and rural.

This United Way ALICE Report for Ohio provides better measures and language to describe the sector of Ohio’s population that struggles to afford basic household necessities. It presents a more accurate picture of the economic reality in the state, especially regarding the number of households that are severely economically challenged.

The report asks whether conditions have improved since the Great Recession, and whether families have been able to work their way above the ALICE Threshold. It includes a toolbox of ALICE measures that provide greater understanding of how and why so many families are still struggling financially. Some of the challenges Ohio faces are unique, while others are trends that have been unfolding nationally for at least three decades.

This report is about far more than poverty; it reveals profound changes in the structure of Ohio’s communities and jobs. It documents the increase in the basic cost of living, the decrease in the availability of jobs that can support household necessities, and the shortage of housing that is affordable to workers in the majority of the state’s jobs.

For the full ALICE report, go to