Thursday, May 17, 2001

A snapshot of who we are

Census says we're getting older; more of us own our homes

By Patrick Crowley and John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the 1990s, the residents of Greater Cincinnati got older, lived alone more and had smaller families. Those facts are among the array of numbers being released today from the 2000 Census for Ohio and Kentucky.

        Most of the local data mirrors national trends. For example, the number of Tristaters who owned their own homes also increased — just as home ownership rose across America.

        Still, there were surprises in the data, which describe how people are clumped in various age groups, whether they rent or own their homes and what their families look like. They included:

Home ownership across the Tristate
        • Bucking a national trend, the number of single-mother households in Cincinnati and Hamilton County dropped during the 1990s. (Single-mother households, however, rose in every other county in Greater Cincinnati.)

        • The Tristate's median age was lower than for the states of Ohio and Kentucky and the nation as a whole.

        • Despite the aging of the region, only two counties (Hamilton and Campbell) had a higher proportion of people 65 and older than the national average of 12.4 percent.

  Click here to look at census numbers for your neighborhood, city or county. To do a local search, type in a zip code, or click on "Interactive Census Map."
        Some of the new numbers confirm little progress has been made on old problems. The rate of home ownership in Cincinnati, among the lowest in the nation, essentially didn't change during the 1990s.

        Other numbers just echoed national trends, such as:

        • Smaller families. Yet the size of families in each of the Tristate's counties shrunk faster than the national rate. Only Boone County has a family size bigger than the national average (3.17 people versus 3.14).

        • The increasing number of people living alone. A quarter of all Americans live alone. Local numbers of solo residents also rose, although it isn't as common in most Tristate communities than it is nationally. Exceptions include Cincinnati, where nearly 43 percent of Cincinnati live alone (about a quarter of them elderly).

        • A higher number of people living in nonfamily households. This includes people who live alone, with roommates, with unmarried partners or other nonrelatives. The number of these households rose across the Tristate as they did nationally, with their numbers strongest locally in Oxford (a college town), Cincinnati and some of its older suburbs like Cheviot, Mount Healthy and Norwood.

        Today's data gives new insight into the flight of residents from the region's urban and older neighborhoods, as sprawl continues to push in all directions.

        In every county in Southwest Ohio and Greater Cincinnati the number of total households grew between 1990 and 2000, including Boone (55.3 percent increase), Warren (43 percent), Clermont (25.2 percent) and Butler (17.7 percent).

        Even in Hamilton County, where the population has dipped, the number of households grew slightly by 2.3 percent. But in Cincinnati the households fell by 4 percent.

        “It's the natural push out of Cincinnati out to the suburbs, and even beyond,” said Ralph Shell, superintendent of the fast-growing Little Miami School District in Warren County. “You're starting to see areas like Lakota, Mason and Kings, all areas that really grew in the 90s, start to spill over into areas like ours.”

        Some believe that older neighborhoods will eventually rebound. Traffic and rising prices in outlying areas might conspire to make older, less congested neighborhoods attractive.

        “While places like Arlington Heights and Latonia don't offer that House and Garden glamour, they are still great areas,” said Vickie Bolton-House, a Fort Mitchell-based Realtor with Re/Max Affiliates.

        “They really do radiate with charm. They have mature trees and diverse architecture, as opposed to carbon copy houses.”

        The new data shows that area residents are getting older as the baby boomers move slowly toward their senior citizen years.

        According to the census figures, the median age of the Cincinnati metro area is 35.1 years, up from 32.3 in 1990 and 29.4 in 1980.

        The trend already has experts planning how to handle what happens when the boomers begin to hit retirement age.

        “Our biggest concern is the work force,” said Lynn Olman, president of the Greater Cincinnati Health Council. “The technology may be advancing, but will we have the people to administer the services?”

        Not only will seniors need more medical services, they will need more help with daily living and housing upkeep. And they will need better choices of transportation, especially if pressure increases to require testing for seniors to keep their driver's licenses.

        “Our public transportation system today is very route-oriented. Seniors will need more door-to-door types of service to help them stay independent longer,” said Robert Logan, chief executive of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio.

        But Cincinnati is reversing the trend when it comes to households headed by single moms.

        Between 1990 and 2000 the number of households headed by a female with, as the U.S. Census Bureau defines it, “no husband present” dropped slightly from 9.3 percent of the population to 9 percent, a decrease from 32,293 to 31,060.

        In Cincinnati the number dropped from 13.8 percent of the population to 12.4 percent, or 20,503 to 18,316.

        Nationally, those households increased over the decade, from about 6 million, or 6.6 percent of the U.S. population, in 1990 to almost 7.6 million, or 7.2 percent of the population, in 2000.

        Carolyn Whitehead-Brown, coordinator of Promoting Healthy Families Group Service at Beech Acres, a family service organization in Anderson Township, disputes the census because she doesn't think enough people filled out the form.

        “I heard stories from people who said they were missed, and nobody got back to them. I just work with too many people who are single parents. They're out there. I'm seeing more.”

       John Eckberg, Tim Bonfield and Cindy Kranz of the Enquirer contributed to this report.



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