Cleveland rates as big city with highest poverty rate

CLEVELAND - Cleveland experienced the highest poverty rate among American cities with populations of 250,000 or more, according to a U.S. Census Bureau analysis.

Nearly a third of the city's population overall and nearly half of children qualified last year as impoverished, figures released Thursday indicated. The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.3 million last year, the third straight annual increase.

Poverty is defined by the federal government as an income of less than $18,660 in 2003 for a family of four. Median household income in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, was $38,204.

In Cuyahoga County, 15 percent of residents were estimated to be poor. That's well above Columbus' Franklin County and Cincinnati's Hamilton County.

Nationally, median income stood at $43,300 in 2003, unchanged from 2002.

In all of Ohio, the figure was $41,350.

With an estimated 31.3 percent of its people in poverty, Cleveland topped the list of impoverished big cities for the first time in the four years census officials have conducted the American Community Survey. Under-18 poverty was 46.9 percent.

In 2000, the city's poverty rate of 24.3 percent ranked sixth nationally; by 2002, Cleveland ranked third, with 30.6 percent of its people in poverty.

In Columbus, Ohio's biggest city, 24 percent of children and 13 percent of the overall population were living below the poverty line.

Cincinnati was 15th, Toledo 20th and Columbus 34th overall.

Women and children were hit hardest as more Ohioans slipped into poverty and the ranks of the uninsured last year, according to the Census Bureau data. About one in six children and nearly one in three households in Ohio headed by women were in poverty in 2003, both increases from the previous year.

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