Running in place? How Louisville stacks up 15 years after merger

Report: Income inequality, declining health hampering progress

Running in place? How Louisville stacks up 15 years after merger
A far-reaching report examining the vitality of Metro Louisville 15 years after the city-county merger found that Metro Louisville is ahead of its regional peers in some areas, and lagging in others.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A sprawling report examining the vitality of Metro Louisville 15 years after merger finds the city just keeping up with its regional peers.

The study, released Tuesday by the nonprofit Greater Louisville Project, compares Louisville to 16 similar cities throughout the South and Midwest across four separate metrics: Education, Jobs, Quality of Place, and Health. Among those cities are Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville, Columbus and St. Louis.

The findings revealed fast relative growth in the education sector, with the percentage of Louisvillians holding bachelor’s degrees increasing at a higher rate than most. Mirroring the education success, Louisville also scores high marks when it comes to jobs, ranking seventh among its peers. The report found median earnings continue to rebound from the damage dealt by the Great Recession.

The picture becomes less rosy when it comes to poverty and income equality. The study indicates 14.5 percent of the city live in “multidimensional poverty.” Louisville ranks fifteenth in this telling category, which tethers residents to a multitude of barriers leading to low income, poor health, unemployment and low education.

The Louisville Urban League’s Sadiqa Reynolds said the only way to solve the problem is with action.

“I do believe we need to be commended for releasing the report, but then you’ve got to have some action behind it,” Reynolds said. “So what we hope to see is in 10 years from now is an increase in home ownership. And then you have more investment, like personal investment. And also a greater ability to attain wealth and pass wealth down so we can really get people out of poverty cycles."

The report also found Louisville lagging behind in health, ranking 13th compared to its peer cities. Contributing to that high number is Louisville’s high adult smoking and obesity rates, which are among the highest in the region. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer claimed the spike in opiate overdose deaths, along with a higher than usual homicide rate, contributed to the problem.

One finding Fischer likely took notice of was where the city scored in the “compassion” index. Fischer has long touted Louisville as the “Compassionate City,” but the numbers indicate Louisville has room to become even more empathetic. Based on volunteer rates, Louisville ranked as the 14th-most compassionate, behind cities like Memphis, St. Louis, and Omaha, which was No. 1 on the list.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.