10 Trends That Have Changed Philadelphia in 10 Years
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

10 Trends That Have Changed Philadelphia in 10 Years

Philadelphia, like many U.S. cities, has a unique story to tell. The city has undergone profound change over the past decade. By many measures, Philadelphia is on an upswing. Neighborhoods have been invigorated by the arrival of Millennials and immigrants, who look at the city and see possibilities rather than liabilities. The city’s average number of jobs in 2018 was at the highest level since 1991, with unemployment at its lowest since 2000. Construction cranes and new high-rise buildings dot the skyline. But not all changes have been positive, and some challenges—many of them tied to poverty—persist.

For a decade now, through the annual “State of the City” report, The Pew Charitable Trusts has gathered and assessed the numbers that provide insight into life, work, and the economy in Philadelphia. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of this report, we’re painting a portrait of Philadelphia through 10 compelling data points that spotlight some of the city’s transformative trends over the past 10 years. A deeper exploration of these trends lends a better understanding of these data, the stories behind them, and how they affect Philadelphians.

The result is a fascinatingly complex picture of a city that has made real progress in a decade but still faces an array of issues. We look forward to seeing how Philadelphia and the numbers that define it evolve in the decades to come.

Population
Immigration
Poverty
Crime
Opioid Crisis
Infant Mortality
Health Insurance
Criminal Justice
High Schoolers
Construction
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The Population Rebounded Millennials and immigrants drove more than a decade of growth

Pedestrians cross the street near City Hall at 15th and Market streets in Philadelphia.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Philadelphia’s population has been growing steadily for more than a decade, ending more than a half-century of decline. Since bottoming out at 1,488,710 in 2006, the number has grown every year.

Philadelphia Population, 2000–17
year Population
2000 1514563
2001 1505455
2002 1498493
2003 1493802
2004 1492882
2005 1490861
2006 1488710
2007 1493309
2008 1499731
2009 1514694
2010 1528271
2011 1539649
2012 1551944
2013 1558109
2014 1564042
2015 1570507
2016 1574765
2017 1580863

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, “2000–2010 Intercensal Estimates”; U.S. Census Bureau, “Population and Housing Unit Estimates,” 2011–17

The growth has been fueled largely by two groups: young adults and immigrants. From 2000 to 2016, the number of foreign-born residents rose by roughly 95,000 while the number of U.S.-born Philadelphians fell by 44,500.

Immigration Surged The immigrant population spiked 59% in 17 years

Shoppers at the Hung Vuong Supermarket on Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Philadelphia experienced a dramatic increase in the size of its immigrant population. More than a quarter of all Philadelphians are either immigrants or U.S. natives with immigrant parents. The number of immigrants jumped by 59 percent from 2000 to 2017—in recent years, the city has recorded its highest share of immigrants since 1950.

Percentage of Philadelphia Residents Born Outside the U.S., 1970–2017
year Percentage
1970 6.5
1980 6.4
1990 6.9
2000 9
2005 11.1
2010 11.6
2015 13.1
2017 13.8

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, “Nativity of the Population for the 50 Largest Urban Places: 1870 to 1990”; U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, one-year estimates, 2005, 2015, and 2017, Table B05002 (Place of Birth by Citizenship Status)

Beyond the numbers, where immigrants are coming from also plays a key role in shaping the city. Philadelphia’s immigrant population is diverse, and the greatest number of foreign-born residents have origins in Asia and the Americas. Chinese immigrants, the largest group, account for approximately 11 percent of the foreign-born population.

Shares of Immigrants in Philadelphia by Continent of Origin, 2012–16
region Percentage
Asia 39.4
Oceania 0.2
Europe 16.9
Africa 10.2
Americas 33.3

Note: Shares represent the annual average for the 2012-16 period. The Americas comprise the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico, and Canada.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, five-year estimates, 2012-16

Concentration of Immigrant Groups in Philadelphia by ZIP Code, 2012–16

Africa

Citywide

population

20,700

0

1,700

3,400

Americas

Citywide

population

67,900

0

4,900

9,800

Asia

Citywide

population

80,400

0

3,500

7,000

Europe

Citywide

population

34,600

0

2,700

5,400

Note: Data on immigrants from Oceania were insufficient for detailed analysis.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, five-year estimates, 2012–16

Poverty Persisted 26% of residents lived below the poverty line

Children play basketball in the Mantua neighborhood.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

As population and immigration rose in Philadelphia, poverty remained a challenge. The city’s poverty rate has been stuck in the 26 percent range for the past five years. The deep poverty rate—defined as the share of households whose incomes are 50 percent below the federal poverty line—increased from 11.1 percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2017.

Percentage of Philadelphians Living Below the Federal Poverty Line

Less than 15 percent

15-29 percent

30-44 percent

45 percent or more

19116

Insufficient data/nonresidential

19154

19115

19114

19150

19111

19118

19152

19126

19138

19119

19128

19136

19149

19141

19120

19144

19135

19127

19124

19129

19140

19137

19132

19133

19134

19131

19121

19122

19125

19151

19130

19123

19139

19104

19102

19106

19103

19107

19143

19146

19147

19142

19145

19148

19153

19112

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, five-year estimates, 2013-17, Table S1701 (Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months)

According to the latest data, Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 10 largest cities and the third-highest among the comparison cities studied in the “State of the City” report, behind only Detroit and Cleveland.

Poverty Rate, 2017
city Poverty rate
U.S. 13.4
Washington 16.6
Phoenix 16.8
Chicago 18.6
Boston 18.7
Pittsburgh 20.2
Houston 20.6
Baltimore 22.2
Philadelphia 25.7
Cleveland 33.1
Detroit 34.5

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, one-year estimates, 2017, Table S1701 (Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months)

Crime Fell, but Homicides Spiked Crime was at its lowest level since the 1970s, while homicides were up 11% in 2018

Photo: Thomas Cristofoletti/Getty Images

Crime in Philadelphia, while still relatively high in comparison to some other cities, is at its lowest level since the 1970s.

Over the past 10 years, the number of violent crimes—homicide, rape, robbery, and assault—has fallen 31 percent, with major crimes, including violent and property crimes, down 23 percent.

Major Crime in Philadelphia, 2008–18
year Total major crimes Violent crimes
2008 82884 20681
2009 74485 18982
2010 75712 18328
2011 77465 18282
2012 74479 17641
2013 70526 17004
2014 68815 15771
2015 65544 16062
2016 64544 15236
2017 63403 15045
2018 63662 14273

Source: Philadelphia Police Department

The city’s homicide numbers, however, represent a troubling trend. Although violent crime overall dropped slightly in 2018, the number of murders rose to 351, the highest total since 2007 and up 11 percent in a single year. Police officials attributed the increase, at least in part, to the city’s opioid crisis.

Homicides in Philadelphia, 2008–18
year Homicides
2008 331
2009 302
2010 306
2011 326
2012 331
2013 246
2014 248
2015 280
2016 277
2017 315
2018 351

Source: Philadelphia Police Department

Violent Crime in Philadelphia, 2016–18 Percentage change by police district

Decreased 10 percent or more

Decreased less than 10 percent

Unchanged

Increased less than 10 percent

Increased 10 percent or more

Source: Philadelphia Police Department

An Opioid Crisis Hit Drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled since 2010

An ambulance leaves the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s emergency department.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

America’s opioid crisis is gripping Philadelphia, and the effects can be felt throughout the city. It’s increasing homicides, homelessness, and—most notably—overdose deaths.

Drug overdose deaths in the city have nearly tripled over the past decade. In 2017, more than 1,200 people died of drug overdoses—mostly related to opioid misuse—giving Philadelphia one of the highest drug death rates in the country; the total fell slightly in 2018. Drug overdoses were the third-leading cause of death among Philadelphia residents in 2017, totaling more than car accidents and homicides combined. By comparison, the city’s annual death toll from the AIDS epidemic peaked at 935 in the mid-1990s.

Unintentional Drug Overdose Deaths in Philadelphia, 2008–18
year Deaths notes
2008 460
2009 419
2010 387
2011 489
2012 513
2013 460
2014 628
2015 702
2016 907
2017 1217
2018 1100 estimated

Note: 2018 deaths are an estimate.

Source: Philadelphia Department of Public Health, “Combating the Opioid Epidemic”

Fatal Drug Overdoses by ZIP Code, 2017

Less than 10

10-25

26-50

More than 50

19116

Nonresidential

19154

19115

19114

19150

19111

19118

19152

19126

19138

19119

19128

19136

19149

19141

19120

19144

19135

19127

19124

19129

19140

19137

19132

19133

19134

19131

19121

19122

19125

19151

19130

19123

19139

19104

19102

19106

19103

19107

19143

19146

19147

19142

19145

19148

19153

19112

Source: Philadelphia Department of Health

Infant Mortality Dropped Infant deaths declined more than a third in 10 years

A mother brings her daughter for a checkup at the Esperanza Health Center in North Philadelphia.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Infant deaths declined by more than a third in 10 years. In 2017, 178 infants died in Philadelphia, or 8.4 per 1,000 births, compared with 286 in 2007. The number of Philadelphia infants who died before their first birthdays has plateaued since 2014.

Infant Mortality in Philadelphia, 2007–17
year Deaths
2007 286
2008 255
2009 253
2010 248
2011 219
2012 236
2013 209
2014 177
2015 184
2016 185
2017 178

Sources: Philadelphia Department of Public Health; Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, “Resident Infant Deaths by Age, Sex, Race, and County (Single Year), Pennsylvania”

More People Had Health Insurance The number of insured grew by almost a third since 2008

A doctor consults with a patient at the city’s Health Center 2 in South Philadelphia.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

In recent years, the percentage of individuals without health insurance declined in Philadelphia and other cities in states that have exercised the option to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. In Philadelphia, the percentage dropped by 2.6 points from 2015 to 2017, to 7.1 percent.

Residents Without Health Insurance, 2017
city Percentage
Boston 3.6
Washington 3.8
Pittsburgh 4.9
Baltimore 6.9
Cleveland 7
Philadelphia 7.1
Detroit 8
U.S. 8.7
Chicago 9.8
Phoenix 13.1
Houston 22.8

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, one-year estimates, 2017, Table S2701 (Selected Characteristics of Health Insurance Coverage in the United States)

The Jail Population Dropped The number of people in jails fell almost 40% in a decade

Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr Creative Commons

Reflecting a larger national trend, Philadelphia has made a concerted effort in recent years to reduce the jail population. The number of people in Philadelphia jails fell by almost 40 percent over the past decade. And in a city that traditionally has had one of the country’s highest levels of incarceration, the jail population fell to 5,251 in 2018, down from 8,932 just five years earlier—perhaps the most dramatic sign of a broad attempt by the city to reshape its criminal justice system.

City Jail Population, 2008–18
year Inmates
2008 8656
2009 9322
2010 8271
2011 8034
2012 8676
2013 8932
2014 8374
2015 7938
2016 7334
2017 6724
2018 5251

Source: Philadelphia Department of Prisons

This finding means that the city met a goal, supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to reduce the jail population by one-third from 2015 to 2018. The current aim, backed by another MacArthur grant, is to get the population under 4,000 by 2020.

More High Schoolers Graduated The graduation rate rose by 12 percentage points in a decade

Teenagers in class at The Academy at Palumbo high school in Philadelphia.
Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

The four-year high school graduation rate in public schools—now run by a local school board after nearly two decades of state control—continued its steady climb, reaching 69 percent for the Class of 2018, the highest it has been in many years. For the Class of 2008, the rate was only 57 percent.

High School Graduation Rates, 2008–18 In Philadelphia’s district-run schools
class In five or six years In four years
69
67
73 66
72 65
71 65
70 65
69 66
67 63
64 60
61 56
63 57

Source: School District of Philadelphia, District Performance Office

Construction Boomed Residential building permits almost doubled

Photo: Lexey Swall/GRAIN for The Pew Charitable Trusts

With the population growing, the number of residential building permits has almost doubled over the past decade. Although the number of permits dipped slightly last year, it was still high by historical standards. How this new construction will change the dynamics of the city and everyday life for Philadelphians in the coming decades remains to be seen.

Residential Building Permits Issued, 2008–18 By unit
year Permits
2008 1701
2009 947
2010 984
2011 1552
2012 2175
2013 2815
2014 3973
2015 3666
2016 3175
2017 3389
2018 3239

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, “Building Permits Survey,” based on data from Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections

To examine these 10 trends in greater detail and access comprehensive data, charts, maps, and other findings, download the full 2019 "State of the City" report.