Philadelphia 2023

The State of the city

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Philadelphia 2023
Diners sit at tables during lunch at Center City’s Reading Terminal Market.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Editor’s note: This report was updated on May 22, 2023, with a new photo on page 31.

The Big Picture

In 2022, increasing numbers of Philadelphians re-engaged in the more public aspects of urban life, commuting to their workplaces again, resuming indoor dining at area restaurants, and attending concerts and other events around town.

There were some promising signs in that re-emergence. As COVID-19 concerns largely faded, many of the jobs that had disappeared in the early days of the pandemic returned, although the city still had fewer jobs than it had before. The unemployment rate—which had been over 12% in 2020 and around 9% in 2021—fell to 5.9%. Median household income rose to $52,899 in 2021, the last year for which figures were available, up 11% from 2019, but with significant disparities by race and ethnicity. 

Philadelphia’s finances were in an unexpectedly strong position as well, ending fiscal year 2022 with a $775 million fund balance driven by higher-than-expected revenue and several thousand unfilled city government jobs. And for the first time, the percentage of city residents age 25 or older with a college degree matched the national rate, at 35%, promising a workforce with more schooling. Nonetheless, Philadelphians had any number of worries on their minds, including a slowing economy, increasing housing costs, lingering inflation, and a stubbornly high poverty rate. Most of all, they worried about the rampant gun violence and high level of crime in the city, a couple of the pandemic’s disturbing legacies. 

In a January 2023 poll by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, 88% of residents said that gun violence had a negative impact on the quality of life in their neighborhood, including 78% of Black residents who said they had heard gunshots in their neighborhood over the past year. Sixty-five percent of Philadelphians thought the city was going in the wrong direction. These findings tracked with similar results from Pew’s Philadelphia Poll in January 2022, and they highlighted a 26-point increase from 2019, effectively reversing residents’ views of the city’s trajectory.

Considering the crime statistics for the year, the Lenfest Institute poll results were hardly a surprise. In 2022, Philadelphia recorded 516 homicides, down marginally from the previous year but still among the city’s highest totals on record. Additionally, 2,255 people were shot, and 2,910 robberies with a gun were reported.

More broadly, the city’s count of major crimes, which includes both violent crimes and property crimes, rose to the highest level since 2006. In a single year, auto thefts increased by 30%, commercial burglaries by 40%, and retail thefts by 52%.

Center city high-rises and skyscrapers sit behind the Schuylkill River.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Throughout Philadelphia, many residents struggled to find suitable housing at an affordable price. Nearly 49% of the city’s households were spending at least 30% of their income on rent, making them “cost burdened” according to the standard set by the U.S. Census Bureau. Although housing costs in Philadelphia remained relatively low compared with other large cities in the Northeast, they were high for the nearly 23% of residents living below the poverty line ($25,750 for a household of four) and the tens of thousands more living just above it. Households in parts of West and North Philadelphia had the highest share of cost-burdened renters.

Although city life returned to something akin to pre-2020 conditions in some respects, many office employees were still working from home at least part of the week throughout 2022. At the same time, many of the policies that helped support people and businesses during the pandemic were disappearing. City regulations that had allowed restaurants to operate “streeteries”—outdoor dining structures located in parking lanes—were changed in ways that eliminated many of them. The federal waiver allowing residents to receive Medicaid coverage without applying for it every year lapsed as well, meaning that all 136,000 newly enrolled Philadelphians who received it since 2020 have to reapply this year.


Philadelphia’s unemployment rate rose slightly between 2021 and 2022.


FALSE. The unemployment rate fell by more than 3 percentage points between 2021 and 2022—from 9% to 5.9%. TWEET


35% of Philadelphians over 25 had a college degree in 2022. Is that below, equal to, or above the U.S. average?


The percentage of Philly residents over 25 with a college degree grew to 35% in 2022—matching the national rate. TWEET

Nearly 49% of Philly residents are “cost burdened,” per the U.S. Census Bureau. In other words, they spend at least 30% of their income on rent. TWEET

In 2022, Philly violent crimes and property crimes hit their highest levels since 2006: Auto thefts up 30% (vs. 2021), Commercial burglaries up 40%, and Retail thefts up 52% TWEET

As 2023 began, the year had the feel of a pivot point, with many questions about Philadelphia’s outlook yet to be answered. Among them:

  • Will the high level of homicides and gun violence drop? Concern about public safety dominated the public psyche, affecting the people directly involved in each deadly incident, their surrounding neighborhoods, and—increasingly—the city as a whole.
  • How will the city’s economy continue to adjust to post-pandemic conditions, with labor shortages in some sectors, a marginally declining population, and fewer people in Center City each weekday as office workers continue to do their jobs from home? Will Philadelphia keep attracting new residents, particularly those born in other countries, helping to maintain the city’s vibrancy? As Philadelphia’s economy adjusts, will economic growth be shared equitably?
  • With COVID-19 still posing a threat, albeit a diminished one, how well prepared is the city to resolve its remaining major public health challenges? In particular, with the city’s opioid epidemic as worrisome as ever, with an estimated 1,400 drug overdose deaths in 2022—the highest total recorded by the city—and with fentanyl and other dangerous substances permeating the drug supply, can Philadelphia’s public health systems get a handle on the crisis?

Amid unprecedented turnover in City Hall and in many civic and educational institutions, Philadelphia residents will be turning to a new crop of leaders to answer these and many other looming questions about the shape of post-pandemic Philadelphia in the months to come.

Unemployment in Philadelphia by Month, 2022. Philadelphia’s unemployment rate fell in 2022. After ranging between 6% and 11% in 2021, the city’s unemployment rate remained below 8% throughout 2022. Unemployment was highest in January, at 7.7%. And after falling for the next few months, it increased slightly from May to August, likely tied to the national inflation surge during that period.
Jobs in Philadelphia by Month, 2022. Philadelphia’s total number of jobs climbed throughout 2022, reaching its highest level in December—an increase of around 30,000 jobs from the beginning of the year.
Shooting Victims in Philadelphia, 2022. By month. A historically high number of people have been shot in Philadelphia since the start of the pandemic, with 2,255 shooting victims in the city last year alone. In 2022, the greatest number of shootings occurred in June (247). The numbers fell in the final months of the year, consistent with previous seasonal fluctuations.


A family gathers outside Los Vargas Mini Market in Hunting Park.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

Philadelphia continues to attract new residents, primarily immigrants, bringing fresh vitality to the city; nevertheless, persistent challenges—such as poverty—remain.

Continuing a trend that predated the pandemic, the city’s population is increasingly diverse, with nearly a quarter of residents speaking a language other than English at home—an increase of almost 2.5 percentage points since 2010. As of 2021, the percentage of Philadelphians identifying as Hispanic or Asian had nearly doubled over the previous 20 years, while the percentage of foreign-born residents increased to 15%, which was above the national average of 13.6%.

Poverty remained stubbornly high, at 22.8%, little changed from 2019 to 2021 despite the major influx of stimulus spending and the expanded federal child tax credit, which was discontinued after 2021.

Racial and Ethnic Changes in Philadelphia. 1990-2021. Since 1990, Philadelphia’s ethnic and racial makeup has changed considerably. The most dramatic shift comes from the Hispanic and Asian shares of the city’s overall population, which have almost tripled. The non-Hispanic White share of the population has dropped from just over half in 1990 to roughly a third in 2021, and the Black or African American share has stayed relatively stable.
Poverty in Philadelphia by Race and Ethnicity. 2011-21. Among major racial and ethnic groups in Philadelphia, Hispanic residents had the highest poverty rate in 2021, at 30%—nearly 2.5 times the rate for non-Hispanic White residents. At the same time, census data showed poverty among Hispanic Philadelphians falling by more than 10 percentage points since before the pandemic. Short-term demographic changes of this magnitude are unusual and worth watching to see if the trend continues.

Figure 2.6

Top 10 Countries of Origin for Philadelphians Born Outside the U.S., 2021

Country Number of residents
China, excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan 23,893
Dominican Republic 19,662
India 12,529
Vietnam 11,719
Jamaica 11,091
Haiti 7,768
Mexico 7,544
Ukraine 6,473
Brazil 5,139
Cambodia 5,122

Fifteen percent of Philadelphia’s population is foreign-born. China is the top country of origin among immigrants in the city, representing 10% of its approximately 228,800 foreignborn residents, followed by the Dominican Republic. Most immigrants in Philadelphia have origins in Asia and the Americas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, five-year estimates, 2017-21, Table B05006 (Place of Birth for the Foreign-Born Population in the United States),


A board welcomes students back to after-school programming at Marian Anderson Recreation Center in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

After two years of disrupted and mostly virtual learning, Philadelphia students returned to the classroom full time in fall 2022. The long-term impact of these pandemic-related learning interruptions remains to be seen.

But some preliminary data shows that preschool enrollment declined by 9 percentage points (or nearly 4,900 children), from 49.2% in 2019 to 40.1% in 2021. Enrollment in college, meanwhile, remained stable, with 48% of students who graduated from School District of Philadelphia-run high schools in 2021 enrolling in college that fall, a figure largely unchanged from 2020.

Census data for 2021 showed that 34.8% of Philadelphians age 25 or older held bachelor’s degrees, essentially the same as the national rate of 35%. This is the highest percentage on record for the city and represents an increase of 11 percentage points since 2011.

Percentage of Philadelphia Residents With a College Degree, 2011-21. Adults 25 and older.  For the first time, more than a third of Philadelphia residents age 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher; the 34.8% rate is essentially the same as the national rate of 35%. The city’s college graduation rate has risen every year since 2011.

Figure 3.6

Philadelphians’ Top 5 Occupations, 2021

By educational attainment

Educational attainment Top occupations
Less than high school (No diploma received) (Median income: $22,500) Manicurist and pedicurist
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
Home health aides
Janitors and building cleaners
High school or high school equivalent (Diploma received) (Median income: $29,700) Nursing assistants
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
Retail salespeople
Home health aides
Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
Some college (No degree received) (Median income: $28,300) Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses
Personal care aides
Couriers and messengers
Customer service representatives
Associate degree (Degree received) (Median income: $39,000) Fast food and counter workers
Janitors and building cleaners
Registered nurses
Retail salespeople
Customer service representatives
Bachelor’s degree or higher (Degree received) (Median income: $59,500) Lawyers and judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers
Elementary and middle school workers
Postsecondary teachers
Registered nurses

This graphic shows the top five occupations held by Philadelphians in 2021 for five different levels of educational attainment, along with the median income for each cohort. Residents in the first two educational attainment levels—those with no more than a high school degree—had similar work profiles. Three occupations—laborers and freight, stock, and material movers; home health aides; and driver/sales workers and truck drivers—were among the top five for both groups. Many residents with some college education and those with associate degrees worked in customer service roles and nursing. Teaching and nursing were common professions for those with bachelor’s degrees.

Note: Residents with an educational attainment and an occupation that did not have wages listed in the census microdata were excluded from the median income analysis.

Source: Pew analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample (2021 one- year estimates)

College Matriculation Rate for School District of Philadelphia Students. 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.  In the pandemic-affected school years of 2019-20 and 2020-21, just under half of all graduating seniors in the School District of Philadelphia went on to attend college the following fall. At criteria-based schools—for which students must meet specific admissions criteria, such as minimum GPAs, prerequisite classes, and attendance records—roughly 4 out of 5 graduates went straight to college. At neighborhood high schools, which admit students based on where they live, only about a third did so.


City Hall overlooks Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

In 2022, the number of people working in Philadelphia’s city government dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade and was 8% lower than in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. Because of the high number of vacancies, overtime spending reached 11.3% of the general fund, its highest level since 2008.

Thanks to all those unfilled positions, as well as better-than-expected revenue, Philadelphia’s fiscal health was strong. Tax revenue—especially for the real estate transfer tax and the business income and receipts tax— came in much higher than anticipated. As a result of those combined factors, the city ended fiscal 2022 with a $775 million fund balance. Philadelphia’s municipal pension fund balance was 57.6% funded, its highest level since 2004.

Philadelphia City Government Capital Spending, FY 2023. By department. In fiscal 2023, Philadelphia allocated $3.86 billion for capital projects. Nearly a third of that figure, about rich-text__embed l-rte-full.2 billion, was for the city’s Water Department. The second-largest share, $874 million, went to the Streets Department, much of it for improvements to sidewalks and accessible ramps throughout the city.
Percentage Change in City Tax Revenue by Source. Fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2023 projected budgets. The city wage tax is Philadelphia’s largest source of revenue. But it now accounts for a lower share of local tax dollars than it did before the pandemic. For fiscal 2020, the last budget drafted before the COVID-19 outbreak, the wage tax was slated to account for 46% of local revenue. For fiscal 2023—the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2022—that share was down to 41.3%. Meanwhile, other revenue has assumed a greater role. For instance, projected revenue from the business income and receipts tax grew from 13.7% to 15.7%, and revenue from the property tax went from 19% to 20.2%.
Median Residential Property Tax Liability, 2023. By ZIP code. In 2023, the median citywide residential property tax liability in Philadelphia was ###PLACEHOLDER###,020. The highest median property tax bill was in Chestnut Hill (19118), at nearly $8,000; the lowest was in eastern North Philadelphia (19133), at $516. In May 2022, Philadelphia released the results of its first citywide reassessment of properties since before the pandemic. As highlighted in Pew’s 2022 report on property taxes in Philadelphia, the median citywide assessed tax liability was rich-text__embed l-rte-full,131 in 2021. Due to relief programs such as the Homestead Exemption, not all taxpayers saw an increase in their liability, but many did.


A staff members pulls prescriptions from a shelf inside Esperanza Health Center’s dispensary in Hunting Park.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

As 2022 progressed, the pandemic stopped feeling like one of the major issues facing Philadelphia.

For the year, the city reported more than 150,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,000 deaths from the virus—but most were recorded early on. By the fall, most mask mandates had been dropped, more workers were returning to their offices, and Philadelphians were experiencing a nearly post-pandemic life.

Other health-related data showed an estimated 1,400 drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia in 2022—the most recorded in a single year by the city, and the highest overdose death rate among the 10 cities compared in this report. Meanwhile, 21% more Philadelphians were enrolled in Medicaid last year than in 2019, and the percentage of residents lacking health insurance, 7.2%, was the lowest since 2017. Infant mortality rates and births to mothers ages 19 and younger also continued their decades-long decline.

Leading Causes of Death in Philadelphia, 2020. In 2020, the last year for which data was available, the leading causes of death in Philadelphia were heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19. According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, nearly 18,200 Philadelphians died in 2020, approximately 3,900 more deaths than in other recent years.
Residents Without Health Insurance, 2021. In Philadelphia and other large cities. The percentage of Philadelphians without health insurance stood at 7.2% in 2021, the lowest figure since 2017 (7.1%). Last year’s figure was well below the national average of 8.6% and higher than the percentages in only four of the nine comparison cities.
Public Benefit Enrollment Trends in Philadelphia, 2012-22. Philadelphians’ enrollment in Medical Assistance, or Medicaid—the federal-state program that helps low-income individuals and families pay for health care—increased by 21% from 2019 to 2022, covering nearly half of the city’s population. Due to pandemic-related federal relief efforts, states were permitted to allow recipients to retain coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program even if they no longer met most eligibility requirements. The expanded eligibility ended in April 2023, and all enrollees must resume participation in the annual eligibility process or lose coverage. It is likely that enrollment will decline as a result.


A new residential building is undergoing construction on the corner of 21st and Tryon streets in the city’s Fitler Square neighborhood.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

After years of rapidly rising prices, the housing market cooled in 2022.

Although home sales increased by 33%, prices rose only 1.9% for the year as a whole and were declining in the second half of the year, according to a study from Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. Additionally, the number of building permits fell by 88% because of several factors, including changes in the 10year tax abatement program and higher interest rates.

Meanwhile, for renters, affordability remained a concern. The share of renters who paid 30% or more of their income in rent was still slightly higher than the national average. To address affordability concerns, the Municipal Court’s Eviction Diversion Program was extended into 2024, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority has cleared the waitlist for its Housing Choice Voucher Program to accept new applicants.

Homeownership in Philadelphia, 2011-21. In 2021, Philadelphia remained a city where homeowners outnumber renters, unlike other large northeastern U.S. cities, where the opposite is true. The 348,935 homeowning households represented nearly 53% of all households.
Share of Renters Spending at Least 30% of Income on Housing, 2021. In Philadelphia and other large cities. In 2021, 48.9% of renters in Philadelphia spent 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities, a threshold long used as a measure of housing affordability. That figure, although 3 percentage points lower than in 2019, was slightly higher than the national average of 47.4% but lower than the rates in several comparison cities.
Homeownership in Philadelphia by Race and Ethnicity, 2006-21. Philadelphia’s homeownership rate reached almost 57% in 2021, substantially higher than it had been in the middle of the last decade but slightly lower than in 2006. Asian households had the highest homeownership rate, at nearly 62%; Hispanic households had the lowest, at approximately 49%. Since 2006, non-Hispanic White households have recorded the biggest decrease, 7 percentage points, although their overall homeownership rate remained comparatively high.

Jobs and the Economy

Javier Rios, co-owner of the Mole Pablano, serves a table outside his South Philadelphia restaurant.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

In a year of high inflation, Philadelphia’s job market and the economy showed strong growth.

As of December 2022, Philadelphia had an estimated 753,900 jobs, an increase of about 30,000 from a year earlier. And in the final four months of 2022, Philadelphia had an unemployment rate below 5%, something that had not happened in at least a decade.

For the year, employment in every major sector of the local economy expanded, with the exception of government—whose number of occupied positions fell by 1%. The size of the leisure and hospitality sector continued its post-pandemic rebound, with 24% more jobs in 2022 than in 2021, although the numbers were still below pre-pandemic levels. And Philadelphians’ median income increased to $52,899 in 2021, the latest year for which data was available, up 11% since 2019.

Median Household Income in Philadelphia, 2021. As has been the case for many years, the city’s lowest-earning areas in 2021 were in North and West Philadelphia; its highest-earning areas were in Center City and Northwest Philadelphia. The largest percentage increase in median household income, 51%, was recorded in the Kensington/Fishtown and East Falls areas.
Median Household Income in Philadelphia, 2019 and 2021. By race and ethnicity. Median household income in Philadelphia varied widely in 2021 by race and ethnicity. The figure for White, non- Hispanic households—$78,010—was more than double the $38,289 figure for Black households. The median income for Hispanic households, $44,795, was 38% higher than it was in 2019, when its value was $32,425—an unusually large spike over a two-year span. However, additional years of data are needed to assess whether this increase will hold up.
Labor Force Participation Rate, 2021. In Philadelphia and other large cities. In 2021, Philadelphia had a labor force participation rate of 75.3% among residents ages 16-64, which was below the national average of 77% and below the rates in more than half of the comparison cities. This was a better showing than in 2019, when the city’s rate was only 71.5% and the national rate was nearly 4 points higher. The labor force consists of people who are employed or actively looking for work.

Public Safety

A Philadelphia Police Department vehicle is parked at an intersection in Center City.
Kriston Jae Bethel for The Pew Charitable Trusts

In 2022, violent crime and homicides declined slightly but remained at historically high levels.

For the year, Philadelphia recorded 516 homicides, down from 562 in 2021 but still among the highest totals in its history. Never before had the city experienced two consecutive years with at least 500 homicides and 2,000 shootings.

While polls, such as the 2023 Lenfest Institute for Journalism survey, have shown crime and public safety to be Philadelphians’ top concerns, the city’s police department has been grappling with a large number of vacancies, struggling to find qualified candidates to fill those positions.

Homicides in Philadelphia, 2012-22. Philadelphia reported 516 homicides in 2022, an 8% reduction from the previous year but still one of the highest annual totals on record. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, arguments and drug-related confrontations were among the primary motives for most of these homicides.

Figure 8.7

Homicide Motives in Philadelphia, 2022

Argument 36.2%
Retaliation 17.2%
Drugs 15.1%
Domestic 8.9%
Highway robbery 6.8%
Other 6.2%
Undetermined 5.8%
Child abuse 1.9%
Residential robbery 1.2%
Commercial robbery 0.4%
Sexual 0.2%

The Philadelphia Police Department cited arguments as the leading motive for homicides in the city in 2022, naming them as the cause in 36.2% of cases, followed by retaliation and drugs. Drugs—which had previously been the top motive for homicides in the city, accounting for 37% of cases in 2018—have dropped considerably as a factor, cited as a motive in 15.1% of homicides last year.

Note: All figures are based on preliminary Philadelphia Police Department crime data and are subject to reclassification upon further investigation. The department changed its protocols in 2018 to classify fewer motives as “undetermined.”

Source: Philadelphia Police Department

Philadelphia Jail Population, 2012-22. In 2022, Philadelphia jails had an average daily population of 4,429—a 50% reduction since 2013. The figure has been below 5,000 in each of the past four years. Aided by nearly $10 million in grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-supported Safety and Justice Challenge, the city has made a concerted and collaborative effort to reduce the jail population in recent years. As of December 2022, 36% of inmates were being held pretrial, compared with about 80% of the jail population before the grants.

Transportation, Infrastructure and the Environment

Philadelphia International Airport
Courtesy of Philadelphia International Airport

Philadelphia’s transportation sector continued to recover in 2022, although public transportation usage remained below pre-pandemic levels.

SEPTA ridership rose by 37% for the City Transit division and by 99% on Regional Rail from 2021 to 2022. Even so, for the last six months of 2022, ridership throughout the system was only 52% of 2019 levels. Philadelphia International Airport, meanwhile, had 113% more passengers in 2022 than in 2020. Yet last year’s passenger total was still 7.7 million short of pre-pandemic levels.

Philadelphia did not experience a single day with unhealthy air in 2022, a vast improvement from a decade ago, when 28 days of unhealthy air were recorded. The previous low had been two days, reported in 2021. 9

Local Mass Transit Ridership, 2012-22. There was a sharp decline in mass transit use in 2020, as a result of pandemic-related closures and remote work policies. The change in ridership from 2019 to 2022 was -48.4% for SEPTA’s City Transit Division, -59.9% for SEPTA’s Regional Rail system, and -56.2% for the PATCO high-speed line.
Days of Unhealthy Air in Philadelphia, 2012-22. In 2022, Philadelphia had zero days with unhealthy air, the fewest in the past decade. This is a significant change from 2012’s total of 28 days. Air pollution is weather-dependent and varies as meteorological trends change. The pandemic-related decline in travel may have also contributed to the city’s improved air quality.
Philadelphia 311 Service Requests for Trash/Recycling Collection, 2016-22. In 2022, the volume of complaints concerning trash and recycling collection fell for a second straight year, returning to more normal levels after peaking in 2020. The number of such complaints—submitted through Philly 311, the city government’s nonemergency customer service system—was 27,091, down from 47,732 two years earlier. In 2020 and into 2021, trash and recycling collection was delayed at times as a significant number of sanitation workers took multiple sick days due to COVID-19.
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