Canton Repository (Ohio), July 31, 2008: More living in poverty than guidelines indicate

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COLUMBUS There are more Ohioans, including those in Stark and Tuscarawas counties, living in poverty than government numbers indicate because the way poverty is measured is 40 years out of date, according to study from the University of Washington.

Commissioned by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, the study said that while earnings of many Ohioans may be above the federal poverty line, they fall short of what is needed to meet their basic needs. The report, instead, uses a self-sufficiency standard.

The study, conducted by Diana M. Pearce, a professor at the university, itemizes county-by-county what families need to survive in Ohio. She said she didn’t do a state average because conditions vary too greatly between rural, suburban and urban areas of the state.

She said the self-sufficiency standard incorporates costs of housing, transportation, child care, food, taxes, personal items, household items, clothes and school fees. Pearce said the federal standard relies on an old formula that accounts for changes from year to year in food costs but not others.

For example, the federal poverty standard for the lower 48 states for a two-person household is $14,000. But the self-sufficiency standard for the same household where there is one adult and one school-age child is $26,529 in Stark County and $25,308 in Tuscarawas County.

“The self-sufficiency standard gives us real-world data to show exactly what it takes for Ohio families in every county to pay the basic bills,” said Phil Cole, executive director of the association.

Pearce said her calculations leave out frills.

“There’s no pizzas or lattes,” she said. “Food costs are based on home-prepared meals.”

She said government can meet the self-sufficiency standard in two ways: decrease a person’s or family’s costs by increasing work supports and tax credits, or raise wages.

“We expect communities to work from both sides of the equation,” she said.

Cole called for a “vigorous discussion” of the standard in hopes that:

— Federal guidelines are revised to reflect real costs;

— New standards are created for who qualifies for work supports, especially in training for high growth jobs; and

— Business and economic development tax incentives offered by the state are changed to require higher paying jobs.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” Cole said of the federal guideline. “It doesn’t work in education. It doesn’t work in this situation.”

This is the first time the self-sufficiency standard has been applied to Ohio. Thirty-six other states have had similar studies, and several have used the standard to change public policies, Pearce said.

The complete report can be viewed at:

Reach Repository Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

Ohio Self-sufficiency Standard

County, One adult, one school age; one adult, one preschooler, one school age; two adults, one preschooler, one school age

Stark, $26,529; $37,728; $44,579

Tuscarawas, $25,308; $34,230, $42,158

Summit, $29,647; $42,248; $48,608

Portage, $28,790; $41,327; $47,252

Wayne, $26,335; $35,462; $42,833

Holmes, $24,074; $32,518; $40,494

Carroll, $23,578; $32,092; $39,495

Coshocton, $23,123; $30,447; $37,621

Harrison, $21,793; $28,778; $36,009

Federal Poverty Guidelines

Persons in household:

1. $10,400

2. $14,000

3. $17,600

4. $21,200

5. $24,800

6. $28,400

7. $32,000

8. $35,600

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