Philadelphia’s Poverty Rates Explained in Five Charts

Philadelphia’s Poverty Rates Explained in Five Charts
Poverty in Philadelphia

In 2016, families with children accounted for 32 percent of poor households in Philadelphia.

© Lexey Swall/GRAIN

Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 10 most populous cities, as well as the highest percentage of residents living in deep poverty, which is defined by the Census Bureau as half the poverty income threshold. Philadelphia’s deep poverty rate has generally been slightly less than half its overall rate; in 2016, it was 12.3 percent. For a family consisting of one adult and two children, the poverty threshold was $19,337 in 2016, and the deep poverty threshold was $9,669. 

Poverty in Philadelphia

The household compositions of Philadelphia’s poor differ from those of the city’s nonpoor population. Of the poverty households, 61 percent were headed by women in 2016, compared with 41 percent of nonpoor households. Only 12 percent of the households in poverty consisted of married couples, with or without children; for the nonpoor population, it was 33 percent. The percentage of households headed by men was the same for the poor and the nonpoor (27 percent).

Poverty in Philadelphia

Another way of comparing the household compositions of the city’s poor and nonpoor populations is by looking at the presence of children. In 2016, 32 percent of poor households, accounting for 51 percent of all poor residents, consisted of families with children. Sixty-five percent of those poor families with children were headed by women. Among nonpoor households, 24 percent were families with children, and 39 percent of them were headed by women.

Poverty in Philadelphia

In the past decade, the demographic makeup of poverty in Philadelphia has changed, particularly when viewed by age, race, and ethnicity. The share of working-age adults among the city’s poverty population grew significantly over those 10 years, while the proportions of poor seniors and children have fallen. Among racial and ethnic groups, the Hispanic share has increased substantially; the Asian share has stayed about the same; and the shares of blacks and non-Hispanic whites have dropped. For the most part, these shifts have corresponded with changes in the city’s overall population.

Poverty in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, as elsewhere, people with higher education levels tend to be better equipped to get high-paying jobs and to avoid poverty. For Philadelphians age 25 and over, the poverty rate is 35.7 percent for those without a high school education, 25.5 percent for those with a high school degree or equivalent, 17.6 percent for those with some college or an associate’s degree, and 9 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Poverty in Philadelphia

For more statistics and charts on the demographics of poverty in Philadelphia, including comparisons with other cities and regions, read the full report, “Philadelphia’s Poor: Who They Are, Where They Live, and How That Has Changed.”

Larry Eichel is director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative; Octavia Howell is a researcher on the team and author of the study.

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Poverty in Philadelphia
Poverty in Philadelphia
Report

Philadelphia's Poor: Who they are, where they live, and how that's changed

Who they are, where they live, and how that has changed.

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Poverty is one of Philadelphia’s most enduring problems. At 25.7 percent, the poverty rate is the highest among the nation’s 10 largest cities. About 400,000 residents—including roughly 37 percent of the city’s children under the age of 18—live below the federal poverty line, which is $19,337 in annual income for an adult living with two children. And nearly half of all poor residents are in deep poverty, defined as 50 percent below the federal poverty line.

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Poverty in Philadelphia
Poverty in Philadelphia
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Comparing Philadelphia's Geography of Poverty With Other Regions

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In the Philadelphia metropolitan region, the poor are more highly concentrated in the city itself than is the case in nearly all of the other regions studied in our November 2017 report, “Philadelphia’s Poor: Who They Are, Where They Live, and How That Has Changed.”

Poverty in Philadelphia
Poverty in Philadelphia
Article

Poverty in Philadelphia

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The impact of Philadelphia’s high poverty rate reaches far beyond the residents who struggle on a daily basis: The high rate limits the tax revenue available to support government services, increases the demand for those services, and weighs on the economic performance of the city as well as the region. Many issues facing Philadelphia—including crime, health, and public education—are rooted in the economic status of its less well-off residents. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ research on this topic examines the demographics and geography of poverty in Philadelphia, making comparisons over time and among cities.

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Philly has the highest poverty rate among the 10 most populous U.S. cities. TWEET