Health and Connectivity in Cuyahoga County for Connected Insights

Concentrated Neighborhood Deprivation

Story by Amy Sheon

Health of the population is inextricably intertwined with that population's economic competitiveness. 


In Cleveland, as in many other urban areas, highly concentrated poverty, segregation, and lack of capital investment contribute to living conditions that result in poor health.

The magnitude of segregation in the County is apparent from the map above showing that, in census tracks shown in the darkest red, 97% or more of residents are Black.  These census tracts form a contiguous crescent running from the Northeast side to central Cleveland to the southeast parts of the city. 

This area has a low proportion of residents who are high school graduates, a high proportion of female headed households with children, and a high proportion of residents living in poverty.  By contrast, areas surrounding the City on all three sides have fewer than 2% of residents that are Black and lower rates of neighborhood deprivation indicators.     

Digital Disparities Parallel Health Disparities

Over 50% of households in some areas of Cleveland lack ANY means of connecting to the internet.  Connectivity is lowest in the area where residents receive public benefits.  Increasing, the internet is required to obtain and maintain benefits.  Without internet, residents must use borrowed devices, use public wifi, or go to the library to get online.  These methods are inconvenient and come with higher risk of data security and privacy loss.

The three charts above show a remarkable disparity.  The first figure above left shows that, with the exception of a few neighborhoods shown in yellow, fewer than 33% of individuals with household income below $20,000 per year have internet subscriptions.  In the middle map, there are about two dozen areas where more than 83% of individuals with income between $20,000 and $75,000 have internet subscriptions.  In most other area, more than half of middle income households have internet.  However , the final panel, above right, reveals that individuals from high income households have very high rates of internet adoption in almost all areas of the county.  However, high income residents of impoverished neighborhoods remain far less likely to have the internet.  This finding confirms a recent report that determined that high speed internet is not available in impoverished neighborhoods at any price.  

Mobile connectivity is a tremendous convenience for those who also have broadband.  A data plan enables people to go online with a internet-capable device from any location where service is available. However, mobile data are relatively expensive compared with the virtually unlimited amount of data available from a broadband subscription.  Thus, individuals whose only access to the internet is through a mobile device are vulnerable.  In addition to the slow speed and high cost of mobile data, mobile devices are suboptimal for creating content such as a resume or job application due to the small screen size, limited features (compared with a computer), and lack of optimization of many websites for mobile devices.

The figure above left shows that more than one half of individuals in outer ring suburban areas have mobile data plans. Despite lower rates of broadband , mobile data plans are far less common in inner ring suburbs and in the City of Cleveland.  Once again, the Cleveland Crescent shows up where fewer than 30% of residents have mobile data plans.    

The map above, right, shows the proportion of residents in each area whose only access to the internet is through a mobile device.  The geographic pattern differs from others because young people are more likely than others to have mobile only.  Thus, mobile only households are more broadly distributed.

Finally, the last chart shows the relationship between household income and broadband access at the census tract level.  At all income levels, having broadband is highly correlated with household income up to about $80,000 per year where internet access plateaus at about 90% saturation.  But for households with incomes below about $45,000, the likelihood of having broadband rises steeply as income increases.    The implication is that individuals with incomes below $45,000 are unlikely to purchase internet without assistance.