Some Wayne County residents are seeing higher wages and have better access to exercise opportunities and health insurance, but others continue to struggle to meet basic needs.
Wayne County Foundation and Forward Wayne County released the 2023 County Indicator Report last Thursday, June 8. The report gathers key community indicators from a variety of sources in one location.
Those compiling the report say the results were not surprising.
On the bright side, Wayne County’s per capita personal income grew at a faster rate than the state.
Local per capita personal income increased to $48,785 — an increase of $3,286 over last year.
However, Wayne County’s poverty level also increased by 2.9%, which is reflective of the increase in poverty levels across the country, according to a news release.
And, the county’s households who have income above the federal poverty level but below the basic cost of living increased by 4%. They are described as ALICE households, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
Twenty-seven percent of the county’s and state’s households fall in the ALICE category.
“We expected numbers in poverty, ALICE households, and unemployment to trend higher as data pertaining to COVID started being computed into the calculations,” said Acacia St. John, program director for Forward Wayne County, in a news release. “We were happy to see that Wayne County is making better strides in increased wages, access to physical health and insurance, and that we remain consistent in educational attainment.”
News about housing could be considered mixed, depending on one’s perspective.
For instance, the median home value in Wayne County has increased to more than $120,000, but those numbers also include the county’s nearly 1% of homes that are worth $1 million or more. Nearly 29%of local homes are worth $50,000 to $99,999, which is the highest percentage.
Meanwhile, homeownership has declined 3.5% in Wayne County, reflecting a decrease in homeownership on a state level.
Local leaders say they’re trying to improve the county’s housing stock through strategies such as seeking additional public and private investments.
Health outcomes and health factors also remain a concern. Wayne County is ranked 76th out of 92 Indiana counties in health factors.
However, there are a couple of bright spots that could improve long-term wellness.
People with insurance increased by 1.4%. Ten percent of county residents don’t have health insurance.
And, residents also reported a 4% increase in physical activity from last year’s figures, and a 13% increase in access to exercise opportunities.
The information provides a snapshot in time of local life, but isn’t all-inclusive.
State and federal entities continue calculating data and adding it at different times throughout the year, so some indicators were not updated in this report but were noted.
Foundation and Forward Wayne County staff say the information remains valuable to residents, communities, and partners.
“We hope that having the most current data in one resource is helpful and convenient for our partners,” said Rebecca Gilliam, the foundation’s executive director, in a news release. “They can use it for research, funding applications, collaboration, and more.”
Read the full report online at https://forwardwaynecounty.org/wp-content/uploads/County-Need-Indicators-May-2023.pdf.
A version of this article appeared in the June 14 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.