What is Blocking the American Dream in Ohio?

The Buckeye State

Roughly 11.6 million people live in Ohio.   Ohio is a major agricultural state and an industrial powerhouse. The State’s 5 top industries include: trade/transportation/utilities, healthcare, education and manufacturing. Ohio has a corporate tax structure designed for companies interested in serving consumers around the world. Interestingly, 8 Presidents have come from Ohio earning it the nickname “Mother of Presidents” shared with Virginia. The largest cities in Ohio are known as the 3 C’s: Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Each city has a population under 1 million.

I believe the most appropriate measure of success for economic development professionals and elected officials is to make it easy for residents to achieve their American Dream. Thanks to the Xavier University’s research, we can now quantitatively define the American Dream and we can measure the degree to which residents in states and mid-large MSAs feel they are achieving their American Dream. These data can be used to strategically identify existing roadblocks and guide planning to remove them.

The American Dream

Xavier University has defined 35 dimensions that combined define the American Dream. These dimensions cluster into 5 super dimensions that reflect the scope of a person’s life:

  1. Economic – Satisfaction, freedom and progress with respect to finances, job, home ownership and health care.
  2. Well-Being – The extent of contentment, health and prosperity.
  3. Societal – The extent the government; businesses; and people are seen as fair and trustworthy.
  4. Diversity – Attitudes toward assimilation of differences in the community.
  5. Environment – The extent of noticeable pollution in the air, food, water and land.

A national random sample of residents completes the online survey each month. The researchers at Xavier University then compile the data and once a year provide The Burghard Group with a geographically aggregated 3-year data set. This data set is used to publish the annual selection of American Dream States and Cities Report.

In this blog post, I am using this 3-year data set to compare perceptions of Ohio residents compared to national averages. I elected to focus on reporting dimensions where Ohio resident perceptions of achievement fall short of national average. However, it should be noted the data set could also be used to identify where the state is doing better than national average.   Another helpful analysis is to compare local resident perceptions with perceptions of residents in other states.

A complete description of all dimensions and a listing of States and Cities where residents feel it is easier to achieve their American Dream (statistically significant positive difference versus national average) can be found in the January issue of Site Selection magazine (article starts on page #182).

Results

The data are presented as an index versus national average. Only dimensions with statistically significant negative differences are identified.

State of Ohio

Generational Progress (96.5)

Job Environment (97.9)

Diversity (98.4)

Trust in Government (94.0)

Safety in Travel (97.7)

Trust in Business (97.5)

Civic Participation (95.9)

Just Society (97.3)

Personal/Social Identity (97.8)

There are often different perceptions when you drill down to the MSA level. Here are the statistically significant differences for each of the 3 major MSAs referenced above.

Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor MSA

Civic Participation (90.0)

Columbus MSA

Generational Progress (90.6)

Trust in Government (91.0)

Trust in Business (93.2)

Educational Quality (93.1)

Just Society (92.2)

Financial Security (92.0)

Cincinnati-Middletown MSA

Trust in Government (92.4)

Personal/Social Identity (94.7)

Possible Next Steps

Clearly, residents of Ohio feel there are a considerable number of dimensions representing a roadblock to achieving their American Dream.

The comparison of how residents in the 3 C’s feel is worth noting. This implies there is something fundamentally different going on in the three MSAs. This difference would be worth a much deeper and thoughtful exploration by both economic development professionals and elected officials in the state to better understand the primary drivers. This can be accomplished through additional local qualitative and/or quantitative research. Understanding why residents feel the way they do is an important step toward identifying effective strategies to reduce or eliminate these barriers to fully achieving their American Dream.

What Can You Do?

Share this post with your local economic development organization and your elected officials (Mayor, member of Congress, Senator, Governor). By doing so, you will help create a better understanding of what the American Dream is and the roadblocks to achieving it in your state. And, if you have any ideas why residents in your state feel the above are roadblocks please leave a comment.

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