Poverty has risen in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties over the last two years, while the city’s median household income in 2011 ranked second-worst among the nation’s largest cities.
The findings were released last month in the American Community Survey One-Year Estimate, an annual sampling of three million people conducted by the U.S Census Bureau. The report has higher margin of error than the census, which is a separate undertaking.
“These are very bleak and disconcerting statistics,” Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics economic consulting firm in West Chester said. “And the real median income is even lower than the Census Bureau suggests because the cost of living in Philadelphia is so high.”
Philadelphia’s poverty rate rose from 26.7 percent to 28.4 percent from 2010 to 2011. Almost 40 percent of city children were living in poverty in 2011, a rise of three percentage points from 2010, according to the report.
Poverty levels in each of the counties surrounding Philadelphia, with Camden County recording the greatest jump, from 12.4 percent to 13.5 percent.
The highest rate in the Pennsylvania suburbs was 9.9 percent in Delaware County.
The overall poverty rate for Pennsylvania rose from 13.4 percent in 2010 to 13.8 percent in 2011, compared with the national rate of 15.9 percent.
Even as the national economy begins to recover, unemployment, along with employment in low-wage jobs, still plagues this region, accounting for high poverty and low median incomes, economists say.
Minimum wage jobs are a huge problem, experts say, noting that in 70 percent of U.S families don’t have enough money to eat, yet there is at least one person working in these households.
The census findings that worry anti-poverty advocates most are the high rates of children’s poverty. In Philadelphia, one in two children receives food from a food pantry, according to the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
The poverty rates are upsetting, yet few in government bring up this problem.
Rhonda Bartlett is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies and minoring in theatre and journalism. She can be reached at RB681837@wcupa.edu.