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Published: Tuesday, 1/13/2004

Living where they work

While a majority of those who work in most other major Ohio cities go home to suburbia at night, Toledo has a higher percentage of people who both live and work in the city than any other big city in the state. That's the surprising and insightful revelation to come from newly released data from the 2000 U.S. Census.

Yet it is debatable to what extent that's news worth boasting about.

Some 58 percent -nearly six out of 10 - of Toledo's workforce lives within the city, and that's a plus for Toledo. For a city that's struggling to redefine itself, it means Toledo has a solid base of workers who are willing to invest significantly in the city's progress by living here. And urban planners say municipal improvements are most likely in cases where there is a high concentration of people who both work and live in a city.

The downside, however, is that many who both work and live in Toledo have low-wage jobs. They include food servers, laundry and dry-cleaning employees, personal and home-care aides, child-care workers, and cooks.

These are all good and honorable pursuits, to be sure, but the workers' incomes are not likely to provide the city much revenue.

Indeed, the census data also reveal that Toledo workers with high-salary, high-status jobs are more apt to live outside the city. These include chief executives, computer and information system managers, various construction equipment operators, electrical power-line installers and repairers, electronic equipment installers and repairers, and vehicle repairers.

There is a racial divide, too. Dr. Carter Wilson, a University of Toledo professor of political science and public administration, says the data help explain why nine in 10 black Toledo workers reside in the city, compared to just five of 10 white workers. He also draws the fair conclusion that the different levels of income correspond roughly to residents' levels of education. However, none of that takes into account that some African-Americans employed in high-status, better-paying positions choose to live inside Toledo.

The numbers also underline the pressing need to lure more high-paying jobs to Toledo. UT's Pat McGuire, of the Urban Affairs Center, recognizes that Toledo administrators must work harder to bring major corporations and high-tech firms with high-paying salaries to the city.

Mayor Jack Ford has addressed this important issue in his technology summits. But the trick is to turn talk into action. Someone needs to figure out how to deliver new high-tech, high-paying jobs to Toledo, and how to get the workers who take them to live in the city.

Otherwise, Toledo could remain the Ohio city with the highest percentage of workers living within its borders, but whose workers, sadly, are also the poorest.

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