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Ohio's women are more educated than men, but more likely to live in poverty, report finds

A pregnant woman stands between a seated woman and man who have laptops.
Juri Pozzi
Ohio moms are working more than the national average, according to data findings from the Center for Community Solutions.

Ohio nonpartisan think tank the Center for Community Solutions released an update to its Status of Women report that shows Ohio's women are still lagging men on several socioeconomic indicators, even as they attain higher education levels than men and as teenage motherhood rates decline.

The report, last assembled in 2019 and updated for 2023, examines factors in Ohio women's wellbeing at statewide and county levels.

Angela Maher, researcher for the Center for Community Solutions, said one significant trend was the 34.8% decline in births among teenage mothers across the state's 88 counties between 2018 and 2022.

"The startling thing when you see the data like that is that it's not our city centers that are carrying the state data. This is really happening all over the state," Maher said.

But maternal care still poses problems for many Ohio women. Though the report found about 95% of Ohio women are covered by health insurance, nearly 20% of Ohio counties offer insufficient access to maternal health care.

The report used March of Dimes research that found 13 Ohio counties are classified as maternity care deserts, meaning there is no access to a hospital with obstetric care or a maternity care provider. That means 97,000 Ohio women live in areas where access to maternal care worsened between 2017 and 2019, which is the highest number of women adversely affected in any state, according to the Center for Community Solutions.

Ohio also sits in the middle when it comes to nationwide maternal mortality. There were 23.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births between 2018 and 2021 in Ohio, which is below the national average of 32.9, according to the report.

Cuyahoga County, home of Cleveland, is considered to have full access to maternity care, which is determined by the number of hospitals with obstetric care or freestanding birthing centers, ratio of obstetric providers per 10,000 births and women without health insurance. Summit County, home of Akron, is also considered to have full access to maternity care.

Maher noted that new Medicaid coverage for pregnancy support professionals called doulas could help bridge the care gap for women in underserved areas.

"[Doulas] can do a lot to help in these areas where women may not have access to more traditional medical care," Maher said. "And when they're in hospitals, [and] maybe feeling vulnerable or not have a relationship with a physician, [doulas can] help them have more successful outcomes and successful deliveries."

Economic findings

Women and girls account for half of Ohio’s population and hold more college degrees than men, according to the report.

"This was prevalent at the state [level] and then prevalent again in almost every county in the state," Maher said. "And what may be surprising about that one is that many of the counties where the difference was greatest for some are more rural counties, which I don't think people would have expected."

In some counties, the difference was as large as a 10% higher rate for women than for men, Maher said.

But the report also determined women are more likely to be in poverty than their male counterparts.

Statewide, research found that 14.5% of females live below poverty compared to 12.1% of men. Cuyahoga County's rate was 17.7% females below poverty compared to 15.6% of males.

But despite higher-than-average poverty rates, more Cuyahoga County women participate in the labor force than the state average for every age group. Female-headed households are disproportionately impacted by poverty in Cuyahoga County, with 60.9% of female-headed households living in poverty.

In Summit County, 13.8% of females lived below poverty compared to 11.4% of males.

In Ohio at large, about 32% of households are female-headed and 59% of households that experience poverty in Ohio are female-headed.

Ohio moms are also working more than the national average. In Ohio, 75.9% of mothers of preschoolers are part of the labor force compared to 72.5% nationally, while 68.4% of Ohio mothers of preschool and school-aged children worked compared to 66.5% nationally. Mothers of school-aged children worked the most, with 80.9% of Ohio moms working compared to 78.1% nationally.

There are no occupations in Ohio in which women earn more than men on average, the report found. On average, women earn 78.5 cents of every dollar that men earn in Ohio, and half of working women earn even less. In Cuyahoga County, women who worked full time earned 81.8 cents for every dollar that men earned. Women living in Summit County who worked full-time earned an average 76.9 cents of every dollar that men earned.

Maher added that more research is needed to fully understand the factors causing the divide between labor, education and poverty.

Social findings

Maher also said the consistency of trends across all of Ohio's 88 counties surprised her. One such data point was graduation rates. The report found girls are graduating high school at a higher rate than boys in 85 counties.

Ohio women are also more likely than men to be registered to vote and participate in elections, with 75.7% of eligible women in Ohio registered to vote.

Older women in every racial and ethnic group in Ohio are more likely to live alone than men. The report found 49.4% of Ohio’s women living alone are 65 or over while 29.1% of Ohio’s men living alone are 65 or over.

Sixty percent of the caregivers in Ohio are women, which matches the national average. According to the report, caregivers are considered adults who provide assistance with activities of daily living or medical and nursing tasks to another adult.

Additionally, 81.6% of Ohio's domestic violence victims were female and 8.8% were perpetrators. Females outnumbered males four to one as the primary victims of domestic violence-related deaths in Ohio from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

Stephanie Metzger-Lawrence is a digital producer for the engaged journalism team at Ideastream Public Media.