In Hardin County, where Kenton is the seat, factories that once made cabooses for trains and axles for commercial trucks have shut down. Since 1980, the share of county residents who live in poverty has risen by 45% and median household income adjusted for inflation has fallen by 7%.There are definitely some similarities between the current struggles of many small, isolated towns and the challenges faced by inner city neighborhoods fifty years ago. Both areas lost jobs and hope while drug use and family failures spiraled up. Currently, we haven't seen the spike in violent crime in small towns, and hopefully we won't, but I expect that part of the inner city collapse rose up with the feeling of hopelessness that grew up out of the utter lack of opportunity and impact of drugs. It very well could crop up in today's seemingly abandoned small towns.
At the same time, census figures show, the percentage of adults who are divorced has nearly tripled, outpacing the U.S. average. Opioid abuse is also driving up crime.
Father Dave Young, the 38-year-old Catholic priest at Immaculate Conception, was shocked when a thief stole ornamental candlesticks and a ciborium, spilling communion wafers along the way.
Before coming to this county a decade ago, Father Young had grown up in nearby Columbus—where for many years he didn’t feel safe walking the streets. “I always had my guard up,” he said.
Since 1980, however, the state capital’s population has risen 52%, buoyed by thousands of jobs from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., plus the growth of Ohio State University. Median household income in Columbus is up 6% over the same span, adjusted for inflation. “The economy has grown a lot there,” said Father Young. “The downtown, they’ve really worked on it.”
Meanwhile, as Kenton—population 8,200—continues to unravel, he said he has begun always locking the church door. Again, he finds himself looking over his shoulder.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Small Towns As The New Inner Cities
The Wall Street Journal goes to Kenton, Ohio to look at the demographic challenges facing many small towns: