Cleveland’s Tale of Two Economies

Driving from South Collinwood over to the East 185th area I thought about the dichotomy of economics in Cleveland. The quick shift from burned down apartment buildings to quaint houses and welcoming bars and cafes on East 185th Street is jarring. Cleveland has been listed in several articles across the United States as a member of economically segregated cities. A new publication by Kate Wallis at Center for Community Solutions blamed the color of one’s skin as the primary factor for Cleveland’s segregation problems; however, there are many other contributing factors that cause the socioeconomic segregation.  Cleveland neighborhood residents can each provide a story about why they think Cleveland’s dichotomous economic state of affairs exist. There are deep, emotional stories that speak deeper than race and live among our communities to help understand a person’s individual socio-economic struggles. We lose the opportunity to understand human relationships when we hang our hat on race and call it a day.  

The University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Project provided a detailed explanation about income, segregation, and occupation to help understand what is happening between the “Haves and the Have Nots”. There is more happening in our communities that create division than race alone. According to the University, “ Segregation of the Wealthy, the top 1 percent of American earners take home 25 percent of the nation’s annual income and control 35 percent of its wealth. Increasingly, they live in their own exclusive enclaves as well.”

 Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz scathingly put it, they (the rich) “have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.” 

What shall Cleveland do? Continue focusing on the race card or expand our thought process and develop an understanding about how we operate and contribute to our current socio economic structure?  Stiglitz’ comment that the wealthy fate is tied to the daily operation of others speaks to Cleveland. Businesses, neighborhoods, and bureaucratic services (public transportation, utilities, social security, food stamps, welfare to work programs, and education to name a few) operate at their best potential when residents, regardless of income, have consistent access to the demand of proof of eligibility. Employers, employees, home owners, consumers, renters, recipient of anything are required to prove who we are, earnings, household economic status; the list is endless. The manner in which Cleveland and the rest of Cuyahoga County engages in this data collection and distribution/redistribution of goods and services participates in the socio-economic divide.

 How neighborhoods reach other to employ and spend individual earnings is stifled by the limitation of access and sharing of data. As different neighborhood’s crumble the link between communities is cut off and other neighborhoods become economically strangled islands. The race card is an enticing option as there is nothing any one individual can do about that. We can continue to shy away from what our eyes clearly can see as a hot mess of burnt buildings, poverty, and drug deals at the convenience store parking lots. Yet, the University of Toronto is providing a multi-layered analysis of the human interaction with themselves and their world. Small Cleveland businesses and corporate service businesses assume employees and potential employees will accept earnings that do not necessarily equate with the ability to live above poverty. “Service Class Segregation with sixty million plus members, the service class is the largest occupational class, encompassing 46 percent of the U.S. workforce. Its members toil in the fastest growing, but lowest paid job categories in the United States, such as food preparation and service, retail sales, and personal care, earning an average of $30,000 per year.”

 With this economic factor in place, Cleveland neighborhoods continue to plummet into despair for many reasons, including the inability to travel. When our employees cannot get to work due to higher bus fares, shorter lines, and reduced available times, we all suffer economically together. 

Yes, Cleveland’s racial community divide is a profound issue, though just telling each other about it does not solve anything. According to NYU sociologist, Patrick Sharkey “Race remains a key marker of stratification in American society. Two-thirds of black children who were raised in the poorest quarter of U.S. neighborhoods a generation ago now raise their own children in similarly poor neighborhoods. About half of all black families have lived in the poorest American neighborhoods over the last two generations, compared to just 7 percent of white families.” The issue of racial divide that contributes to intergenerational poverty requires an infusion of technological advancement. This form of equal access to share and distribute personal information to create and economically stabilize is not the cure. Yet, it is a factor that can possibly provide solutions. Additionally, it can aid in reducing the shadow of race as the catch-all to explain how we engage economically together as communities.  

What shall we do together? Economic stability relies on proof of financial status- regardless of income. To qualify for anything including employment, buying a house, renting an apartment, attending school, or the cost of utilities, we must prove ourselves: credit scores, credit history, and income earnings. Continuous electronic access to demonstrate who we are and our financial digital footprint is not available or accessible to everyone in Cleveland. The lack of access to personal information is not continuously available with speed and efficiency. The lack of access to and ability to share personal information and financial records when attempting to create a steady economic platform is part of our struggling neighborhood’s demise. 

CAMHP Foundation’s mission is to research, analysis and develop citizen’s initiatives for the purpose of creating neighborhood relative economic stability.  

We look forward to  your comments and suggestions at

Danielle J. Dronet is completing her PhD at the Institute of Clinical Social Work and Catherine A. Dronet is graduating with a degree in political science and economics from Bishop's University in Canada.

Reference Articles

Florida, Richard, and Charlotta Mellander . “Segregated City: The Geography of Economic Segregation in America’s Metros.”, Martin Prosperity Institute, 2015, City.pdf 

Murray , Theresa Dixon. “Unemployed Young People in Cuyahoga Cost Economy $927 Million a Year, Report Shows.”,, 3 Dec. 2018,

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Volume 11, Issue 1, Posted 5:21 PM, 01.08.2019