Ohio's median income of $52,234 ranks 35th among the 50 states and District of Columbia.
Median income and poverty numbers improved for Stark County and the rest of Ohio from 2015 to 2016, according to new U.S. Census Bureau survey numbers released this week.
The percentage of people who are uninsured continued to decrease in Stark County and across the state, according to the bureau’s American Community Survey estimates. The number of uninsured rose from 7.9 percent to 10 percent in Tuscarawas County.
However, the state’s median income of $52,234 ranks just 35th among the nation’s 50 states and the District of Columbia, and that concerns people such as Amy Hanauer, executive director of the left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio.
“It used to be easier to earn a living in Ohio than the rest of the country,” she said. “That’s no longer the case.”
Hanauer said the data do show a second solid year of income growth, but broken down by race, state rankings remain low. The Ohio median household income for white residents for 2016 was $56,579, or 33rd in the country. But for African Americans, it was just $31,035 (42nd), and for Latinos, $41,321 (33rd). For Ohio Asians, the median was $70,866 (21st).
Still, the generally positive trend in Stark and surrounding counties mirrors that across the country.
In Stark County, the median household income rose nearly 12 percent from 2012 to 2016. The median household income in 2016 was $50,994, up from $45,617 four years prior and up more than 4 percent from the previous year ($48,819).
Income rose even higher in Tuscarawas County in 2016. The median household income in 2016 was $50,440, up 15.4 percent from 2012 income level of $43,702. It was a 6 percent rise from 2015’s level of $47,331.
Delaware County, north of Columbus, had the state’s highest median household income in 2016, and the only county in the state at six figures. It’s came in at $101,693, up nearly 19 percent from 2012. That was nearly double Ohio’s median household income of $52,334.
The county that had the largest drop in median income from 2012 to 2016 was Portage County, which lost $3,140 in annual household income in the four-year period.
Wood County, just south of Toledo, had the largest gain from 2012 to 2016 at 21.4 percent, gaining $10,591 to come in at $60,166.
The county with the largest year-over-year drop (2015 to 2016) was Portage County, dropping 6.3 percent. Miami County had the great year-over-year increase, a whopping 18.3 percent increase from $49,156 to $60,170.
Stark and Tuscarawas income still lags the national median household income of $59,039 in 2016, a 3.2 percent increase over 2015.
“We are definitely pulling out of the hole of the Great Recession,” said Elise Gould, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
Meanwhile, poverty rates decreased slightly from 13.3 percent to 13.1 percent and dropped 1.4 percent during the four-year comparison (2012-2016).
George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economist, said Ohio continues to recover from decades-long losses in manufacturing jobs that decimated wages for blue-collar workers, leading to more income inequality.
“Median income is up; that’s a good thing,” Zeller said of the statewide number. But Ohio has gone 56 consecutive months with job-growth rates that are less than the national average.
“Both Ohio and the rest of the country are growing. We’re just growing more slowly than the rest of the country.”
Ben Ayres, a senior economist at Nationwide, said the relative strength of the Columbus and Cincinnati metro areas will continue to boost the rest of the state, with many of those areas still trying to recover and retool from those manufacturing losses.
And the data shows the economic recovery is continuing to broaden, reaching more areas of the country, said Mark Vitner, an economist with Wells Fargo.
“It marks a real change for us,” he said.
But Vitner said that industries tied to the automotive sector aren’t performing as well as they were.