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8 Trends That Defined the Past Year in Philadelphia

Last year brought many serious challenges, chief among them the pandemic and its impacts on cities around the world, including our hometown of Philadelphia. COVID-19 affected nearly all aspects of Philadelphians’ lives, magnifying existing inequities and exposing new fault lines at a time when calls for racial justice were mounting in the city and throughout the country.

Data from our Philadelphia research and policy initiative's annual “State of the City” report documents the pandemic’s consequences, both direct and indirect.

As it grappled with the coronavirus, Philadelphia also faced spikes in gun violence and drug overdose deaths as well as questions about what lasting effects the pandemic might have on its economy and its people.

Here, we tell the city’s story, providing a snapshot of what life looks like now and how it has evolved in recent years.


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Philadelphia 2024

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In many ways, 2024 is a year of significant transition for Philadelphia. In this year of transition, the challenge is clear for Philadelphia and its new leaders: They must nurture and strengthen the positive trends while making progress on a set of deep-seated problems that can sometimes seem intractable.

Health care workers provide COVID-19 testing at Sayre Health Center in West Philadelphia.
Lexey Swall The Pew Charitable Trusts

COVID-19

A deadly pandemic stuns a city


Nearly 2,500 Philadelphians lost their lives to the coronavirus in 2020, with more than 96,000 confirmed cases.

The world wasn’t prepared for the novel coronavirus, and many Americans weren’t prepared for how rapidly it spread. But as Philadelphians learned more about how to protect themselves, the number of deaths per month in the city fell gradually from spring to summer before rising sharply in late fall.


COVID-19 Cases in Philadelphia, 2020

From March 2020 through late December 2020, Philadelphia recorded more than 96,000 cases of COVID-19. Like many other U.S. cities, Philadelphia experienced two major spikes in cases: shortly after the start of the pandemic and once more during the winter holidays.

Source: City of Philadelphia, “COVID-19 Overview,” https://​www.​phila.​gov/​programs/​coronavirus-​disease-​2019-​covid-​19/​data/​testing/​

© 2021 The Pew Charitable Trusts

As the pandemic stretched on, the city steadily increased the availability of COVID-19 testing for residents. Although tests were relatively limited in the early months, more than 200,000 tests per month were administered in November and December.

From March through December 2020, Philadelphia recorded more than 96,000 cases of COVID-19. Like many other U.S. cities, Philadelphia experienced two major spikes in cases: in April, shortly after the start of the pandemic, and once more toward the end of the year.


COVID-19 Deaths in Philadelphia, 2020

In 2020, Philadelphia recorded nearly 2,500 deaths from COVID-19. As the public learned more about how the virus is spread, the number of deaths per month fell gradually from spring to summer before rising sharply in December.